|The Iron Rolling Mill (Modern Cyclopes), Adolf Menzel (1872-1875)|
Oswald Spengler on the nationalist form of socialism, which he termed "Prussian" - one of the most important concepts of Germany's Conservative Revolution, and one of the concepts that separates the true Right from the false one which prevails today. - John Morgan
I have now reached the point when the definitive word must be said about "Prussianism" and "Socialism."
In 1919 I compared the two, the one a living idea and the other the catchword of a whole century, and was - I am tempted to add: "of course" - not understood. People no longer know how to read - this great art, still known in the age of Goethe, has died out. They skim printed pages "mass-wise," and, as a result, the reader demoralizes the book. I showed that in the working class, as Bebel welded it into a powerful army, in its discipline and loyal subordination, its good comradeship, its readiness for the ultimate sacrifice, there still lived that Old-Prussian "style" which first proved itself in the battles of the Seven Years' War. What mattered then was the individual Socialist as a character, his "moral imperative," not the Socialism hammered into his head, which was a wholly un-Prussian mixture of foolish ideology and vulgar greed. I pointed out also that this type of being "in form" for a task was a tradition going back to the Teutonic Order, by which in the Gothic centuries - as again today - the frontier guard of the Faustian Culture was kept up against Asia. This ethical attitude, unconscious as is every genuine life-style, and therefore to be awakened and trained only by living example and not by talk and writing, stood forth in its splendour in August 1914 - the army had trained Germany - and was betrayed by the parties in 1918 when the State went under. Since then this disciplined will has again raised its head in the National movement; not in its programs and parties, but in the ethical attitude of an elite, as individuals; and it is possible that, starting from this foundation, the German people may by perseverance be slowly trained for its difficult future. This is essential if we are not to succumb in the battles that lie ahead.
But the shallow-minded cannot get away from the Marxian thought of last
century. Throughout the world they think of Socialism not as a moral attitude of life but as economic Socialism, Labour Socialism, as a mass ideology with material aims. Program Socialism of every sort is thinking from below, building on base instincts, canonizing the herd-feeling which everywhere today lurks behind the slogan of "overcoming individualism"; it is the contrary of Prussian feeling, which has livingly experienced through exemplary leaders the necessity of disciplined devotion and possesses accordingly the inward freedom that comes with the fulfilment of duty, the ordering of oneself, command of oneself, for the sake of a great aim.
Labour-Socialism in every form, on the other hand, is, as I have already shown, definitely English in origin. It arose, about 1840, simultaneously with the victory of the joint-stock company and the rootless "financial" form of capital. Both were the expression of Free Trade Manchesterism: this "white" Bolshevism is capitalism from below, wage-capitalism, just as speculative finance-capital in respect of its method is Socialism from above, from the stock exchange. Both grew out of the same intellectual root: thinking in money, trading in money on the pavements of the world's capitals, whether as wage-levels or profits on exchange rates makes no odds. There is no contradiction between economic Liberalism and Socialism. The Labour market is the stock exchange of the organized proletariat. The trade unions are trusts for forcing up wages on the lines followed by oil, steel, and bank trusts of the Anglo-American type, whose finance-Socialism penetrates, dominates, sucks, and controls them to the point of systematic expropriation. The devastating dispossessing effect of bundles of shares and bonds, the separation of mere "credit" from the responsible directive work of the entrepreneur, who no longer knows to whom his work actually belongs, has not received anything like adequate consideration. Productive economy is in the last resort nothing but the will-less object of stock-exchange manoeuvres. It was only the rise of the share system to domination that enabled the stock exchange (formerly a mere aid to economy) to assume the decisive control of economic life. Finance-Socialists and trust magnates like Morgan and Kreuger correspond absolutely to the mass-leaders of Labour parties and the Russian economic commissars: dealer-natures with the same parvenu tastes. From both sides, today as in the days of the Gracchi, the conservative forces of the State - army, property, peasant, and manager - are being attacked.
But the Prussian style demands not only a mere precedence of higher policy over economics; it demands that the economic life should be disciplined by a powerful State, which is the precondition of free initiative in private enterprise - for, whatever else it may be, it is not a mere super-party, complete with program and ready to press organization to the point of abolishing the idea of property (Eigentum); which, precisely among Germanic peoples, denotes freedom of the economic will, and lordship over that which is one's own. "Disciplining" is the training of a racehorse by an experienced rider and not the forcing of the living economic body into the strait-jacket of an economic plan or its transformation into a press-the-button machine. "Prussian" is also the aristocratic ordering of life according to the grade of achievement. Prussian is, above all, the undisputed precedence of foreign policy, the successful steering of the State in a world of states, over internal policy, which exists solely to keep the nation in form for this task and becomes mischievous and criminal as soon as it begins to follow independently its own ideological aims. Herein lies the weakness of most revolutions, whose leaders, having risen through demagogy and learnt nothing else, are unable to find their way from thinking on party lines to thinking in terms of statesmanship. This was the case with Danton and Robespierre. Mirabeau and Lenin died too soon, Mussolini was successful. But the future belongs to the great fact-men, now that the world-improvers, who have preened themselves on the stage of world history since Rousseau, have vanished and left no trace.
Prussian is, lastly, a character which disciplines itself, such as that of Frederick the Great, which he himself paraphrased as consisting in being the First Servant of the State. Such a servant is no lackey, but when Bebel opined that the German people had the soul of a lackey, he was right as far as the majority were concerned. His own party proved it in 1918. The lackeys of success are more numerous with us than elsewhere, although they have in all ages and all nations crowded the herd of humanity. It is a matter of indifference whether Byzantinism performs its orgies before money-bags, political success, a title, or merely Gessler's hat. When Charles II landed in England, there were suddenly no Republicans left. To be a servant of the State is an aristocratic virtue, of which few are possessed. If this is "Socialistic," it is a proud and exclusive Socialism for men of race, for the elect of life. Prussianism is a very superior thing which sets itself against every sort of majority- and mob-rule; above all, against the dominance of the mass character. Moltke, the great educator of the German officer, the finest example of true Prussianism in the nineteenth century, was thus constituted. Count Schlieffen summed up his personality in the motto: "Talk little, do much, be, rather than seem."
This idea of a "Prussian" existence will be the starting-point for the ultimate
overthrowing of the World Revolution. There is no other possibility. I said, as far back as 1919: Not everyone is a Prussian who is born in Prussia; the type is possible anywhere in the white world and actually occurs, though rarely. [...] The Prussian idea is opposed to finance-Liberalism as well as to Labour-Socialism. Every description of mass and majority, everything that is "Left," it regards as suspect. [...] All really great leaders in history go "Right," however low the depths from which they have climbed. It is the mark of the born master and ruler.
-Oswald Spengler, "The Hour of Decision" (1933)