The so-called ‘Düsseldorf Speech’ was an attempt by Adolf Hitler to win over Germany’s industrialists so that they would support the Nazi Party in what proved to be the last year of Weimar Germany. The Düsseldorf Speech was made on January 27th 1932 in the heart of Germany’s industrial zone.
“If today the National Socialist Movement is regarded amongst widespread circles in Germany as being hostile to our business life, I believe the reason for this view is to be found in the fact that we adopted towards the events which determined the development leading to our present position an attitude which differed from that of all the other organizations which are of any importance in our public life. Even now our outlook differs in many points from that of our opponents.
I regard it as of the first importance to break once and for all with the view that our destiny is conditioned by world events. It is not true that our distress has its final cause in a world crisis, in a world catastrophe: the true view is that we have reached a state of general crisis, because from the first certain mistakes were made. I must not say ‘According to the general view the Peace Treaty of Versailles is the cause of our misfortune.’ What is the Peace Treaty of Versailles but the work of men? It is not a burden which has been imposed or laid upon us by Providence. It is the work of men for which, it goes without saying, once again men with their merits or their failings must be held responsible. If this were not so, how should men ever be able to set aside this work at all? I am of the opinion that there is nothing which has been produced by the will of man which cannot in its turn be altered by another human will.
Both the Peace Treaty of Versailles together with all the consequences of that Treaty have been the result of a policy which perhaps fifteen, fourteen, or thirteen years ago was regarded as the right policy, at least in the enemy States, but which from our point of view was bound to be regarded as fatal when ten or less years ago its true character was disclosed to millions of Germans and now today stands revealed in its utter impossibility. I am bound therefore to assert that there must of necessity have been in Germany, too, some responsibility for these happenings if I am to have any belief that the German people can exercise some influence towards changing these conditions.
It is also in my view false to say that life in Germany today is solely determined by considerations of foreign policy, that the primacy of foreign policy governs today the whole of our domestic life. Certainly a people can reach the point when foreign relations influence and determine completely its domestic life. But let no one say that such a condition is from the first either natural or desirable. Rather the important thing is that a people should create the conditions for a change in this state of affairs.
If anyone says to me that its foreign politics is primarily decisive for the life of a people, then I must first ask: what then is the meaning of the term ‘Politics’? There is a whole series of definitions. Frederick the Great said: ‘Politics is the art of serving one’s State with every means.’ Bismarck’s explanation was that ‘Politics is the art of the Possible,’ starting from the conception that advantage should be taken of every possibility to serve the State – and, in the later transformation of the idea of the State into the idea of nationalities, the Nation. Another considers that this service rendered to the people can be effected by military as well as peaceful action: for Clausewitz says that war is the continuation of politics though with different means. Conversely, Clemenceau considers that today peace is nothing but the continuation of war and the pursuing of the war-aim, though again with other means. To put it briefly: politics is nothing else and can be nothing else than the safeguarding of a people’s vital interests and the practical waging of its life-battle with every means. Thus it is quite clear that this life-battle from the first has its starting-point in the people itself and that at the same time the people is the object – the real thing of value – which has to be preserved. All functions of this body formed by the people must in the last resort fulfill only one purpose – to secure in the future the maintenance of this body which is the people. I can therefore say neither that foreign policy nor economic policy is of primary significance. Of course, a people needs the business world in order to live. But business is but one of the functions of this body-politic whereby its existence is assured. But primarily the essential thing is the starting-point and that is the people itself.
It is therefore false to say that foreign politics shapes a people: rather, peoples order their relations to the world about them in correspondence with their inborn forces and according to the measure in which their education enables them to bring those forces into play. We may be quite convinced that if in the place of the Germany of today there had stood a different Germany, the attitude towards the rest of the world would also have been different, and then presumably the influences exercised by the rest of the world would have taken a different form. To deny this would mean that Germany’s destiny can no longer be changed no matter what Government rules in Germany.
And as against this conception I am the champion of another standpoint: three factors, I hold, essentially determine a people’s political life:
First, the inner value of a people which as an inherited sum and possession is transmitted again and again through the generations, a value which suffers any change when the people, the custodian of this inherited possession, changes itself in its inner blood-conditioned composition. It is beyond question that certain traits of character, certain virtues, and certain vices always recur in peoples so long as their inner nature – their blood-conditioned composition – has not essentially altered. I can already trace the virtues and the vices of our German people in the writers of Rome just as clearly as I see them today. This inner value which determines the life of a people can be destroyed by nothing save only through a change in the blood causing a change in substance. Temporarily an illogical form of organization of life or unintelligent education may prejudice it. But in that case, though its effective action may be hindered, the fundamental value in itself is still present as it was before. And it is this value which is the great source of all hopes for a people’s revival, it is this which justifies the belief that a people which in the course of thousands of years has furnished countless examples of the highest inner value cannot suddenly have lost overnight this inborn inherited value, but that one day this people will once again bring this value into action. If this were not the case, then the faith of millions of men in a better future – the mystic hope for a new Germany would be incomprehensible. It would be incomprehensible how it was that this German people, at the end of the Thirty Years War, when its population had shrunk from eighteen to thirteen and one-half millions, could ever have once more formed the hope through work, through industry, and capacity to rise again, how in this completely crushed people hundreds of thousands and finally millions should have been seized with the longing for a re-formation of their State.
I said that this value can be destroyed. There are indeed in especial two other closely related factors which we can time and again trace in periods of national decline: the one is that for the conception of the value of personality there is substituted a levelling idea of the supremacy of mere numbers – democracy – and the other is the negation of the value of a people, the denial of any difference in the inborn capacity, the achievement, etc., of individual peoples. Thus both factors condition one another or at least influence each other in the course of their development. Internationalism and democracy are inseparable conceptions. It is but logical that democracy, which within a people denies the special value of the individual and puts in its place a value which represents the sum of all individualities – a purely numerical value – should proceed in precisely the same way in the life of peoples and should in that sphere result in internationalism. Broadly it is maintained: peoples have no inborn values, but, at the most, there can be admitted perhaps temporary differences in education. Between Negroes, Aryans, Mongolians, and Redskins there is no essential difference in value. This view which forms the basis of the whole of the international thought-world of today and in its effects is carried to such lengths that in the end a Negro can sit as president in the sessions of the League of Nations leads necessarily as a further consequence to the point that in a similar way within a people differences in value between the individual members of this people are denied. And thus naturally every special capacity, every fundamental value of a people, can practically be made of no effect. For the greatness of a people is the result not of the sum of all its achievements but in the last resort of the sum of its outstanding achievements. Let no one say that the picture produced as a first impression of human civilization is the impression of its achievement as a whole. This whole edifice of civilization is in its foundations and in all its stones nothing else than the result of the creative capacity, the achievement, the intelligence, the industry, of individuals: in its greatest triumphs it represents the great crowning achievement of individual God-favored geniuses, in its average accomplishment the achievement of men of average capacity, and in its sum doubtless the result of the use of human labor-force in order to turn to account the creations of genius and of talent. So it is only natural that when the capable intelligences of a nation, which are always in a minority, are regarded only as of the same value as all the rest, then genius, capacity, the value of personality are slowly subjected to the majority and this process is then falsely named the rule of the people. For this is not rule of the people, but in reality the rule of stupidity, of mediocrity, of half-heartedness, of cowardice, of weakness, and of inadequacy.
Thus democracy will in practice lead to the destruction of a people’s true values. And this also serves to explain how It is that peoples with a great past from the time when they surrender themselves to the unlimited, democratic rule of the masses slowly lose their former position; for the outstanding-achievements of individuals which they still possess or which could be produced in all spheres of life are now rendered practically ineffective through the oppression of mere numbers. And thus in these conditions a people will gradually lose its importance not merely in the cultural and economic spheres but altogether, in a comparatively short time it will no longer, within the setting of the other peoples of the world, maintain its former value.
And to this there must be added a third factor: namely, the view that life in this world, after the denial of the value of personality and of the special value of a people, is not to be maintained through conflict. That is a conception which could perhaps be disregarded if it fixed itself only in the heads of individuals, but yet has appalling consequences because it slowly poisons an entire people. And it is not as if such general changes in men’s outlook on the world remained only on the surface or were confined to their effects on men’s minds. No, in course of time they exercise a profound influence and affect all expressions of a people’s life.
I may cite an example: you maintain, gentlemen, that German business life must be constructed on a basis of private property. Now such a conception as that of private property you can defend only if in some way or another it appears to have a logical foundation. This conception must deduce its ethical justification from an insight into the necessity which Nature dictates. It cannot simply be upheld by saying: ‘It has always been so and therefore it must continue to be so.’ For in periods of great upheavals within States, of movements of peoples and changes in thought, institutions and systems cannot remain untouched because they have previously been preserved without change. It is the characteristic feature of all really great revolutionary epochs in the history of mankind that they pay astonishingly little regard for forms which are hallowed only by age or which are apparently only so consecrated. It is thus necessary to give such foundations to traditional forms which are to be preserved that they can be regarded as absolutely essential, as logical and right. And then I am bound to say that private property can be morally and ethically justified only if I admit that men’s achievements are different. Only on that basis can I assert: since men’s achievements are different, the results of those achievements are also different. But if the results of those achievements are different, then it is reasonable to leave to men the administration of those results to a corresponding degree. It would not be logical to entrust the administration of the result of an achievement which was bound up with a personality either to the next best but less capable person or to a community which, through the mere fact that it had not performed the achievement, has proved that it is not capable of administering the result of that achievement. Thus it must be admitted that in the economic sphere, from the start, in all branches men are not of equal value or of equal importance. And once this is admitted it is madness to say: in the economic sphere there are undoubtedly differences in value, but that is not true in the political sphere. It is absurd to build up economic life on the conceptions of achievement, of the value of personality, and therefore in practice on the authority of personality, but in the political sphere to deny the authority of personality and to thrust into its place the law of the greater number – democracy. In that case there must slowly arise a cleavage between the economic and the political point of view, and to bridge that cleavage an attempt will be made to assimilate the former to the latter – indeed the attempt has been made, for this cleavage has not remained bare, pale theory. The conception of the equality of values has already, not only in politics but in economics also, been raised to a system, and that not merely in abstract theory: no! this economic system is alive in gigantic organizations and it has already today inspired a State which rules over immense areas.
But I cannot regard it as possible that the life of a people should in the long run be based upon two fundamental conceptions. If the view is right that there are differences in human achievement, then it must also be true that the value of men in respect of the production of certain achievements is different It is then absurd to allow this principle to hold good only In one sphere – the sphere of economic life and its leadership – and to refuse to acknowledge its validity in the sphere of the whole life-struggle of a people – the sphere of politics. Rather the logical course is that if I recognize without qualification in the economic sphere the fact of special achievements as forming the condition of all higher culture, then in the same way I should recognize special achievement in the sphere of politics, and that means that I am bound to put in the forefront the authority of personality. If, on the contrary, it is asserted – and that, too, by those engaged in business – that in the political sphere special capacities are not necessary but that here an absolute equality in achievement reigns, then one day this same theory will be transferred from politics and applied to economic life. But in the economic sphere communism is analogous to democracy in the political sphere. We find ourselves today in a period in which these two fundamental principles are at grips in all spheres which come into contact with each other; already they are invading economics.
To take an example: Life in practical activity is founded on the importance of personality: but now gradually it is threatened by the supremacy of mere numbers. But in the State there is an organization – the army – which cannot in any way be democratized without surrendering its very existence. But if a Weltanschauung cannot be applied to every sphere of a people’s life, that fact in itself is sufficient proof of its weakness. In other words: the army can exist only if it maintains the absolutely undemocratic principle of unconditional authority proceeding downwards and absolute responsibility proceeding upwards, while, in contradistinction to this, democracy means in practice complete dependence proceeding downwards and authority proceeding upwards. But the result is that in a State in which the whole political life – beginning with the parish and ending with the Reichstag – is built up on the conception of democracy, the army is bound gradually to become an alien body and an alien body which must necessarily be felt to be such. It is for democracy an alien world of ideas, an alien Weltanschauung which inspires the life of this body. An internal conflict between the representatives of the democratic principle and the representatives of the principle of authority must be the inevitable consequence, and this conflict we are actually experiencing in Germany.
So in the same way the education to pacifism must of necessity have its effect right through life until it reaches the humblest individual lives. The conception of pacifism is logical if I once admit a general equality amongst peoples and human beings. For in that case what sense is there in conflict? The conception of pacifism translated into practice and applied to all spheres must gradually lead to the destruction of the competitive instinct, to the destruction of the ambition for outstanding achievement. I cannot say: in politics we will be pacifists, we reject the idea of the necessity for life to safeguard itself through conflict – but in economics we want to remain keenly competitive. If I reject the idea of conflict as such, it is of no importance that for the time being that idea is still applied in some single spheres. In the last resort political decisions are decisive and determine achievement in the single sphere.
To sum up the argument: I see two diametrically opposed principles: the principle of democracy which, wherever it is allowed practical effect is the principle of destruction: and the principle of the authority of personality which I would call the principle of achievement, because whatever man in the past has achieved – all human civilizations – is conceivable only if the supremacy of this principle is admitted.
The worth of a people, the character of its internal organization through which this worth of a people may produce its effect, and the character of a people’s education – these are the starting-points for political action: these are the foundations for the success of that action.
That the evidences of a crisis should today spread over almost the entire world is comprehensible when one considers that the world has been opened up and mutual relations have been strengthened to an extent which fifty, eighty, or a hundred years ago appeared scarcely possible. And yet, despite this fact, one must not believe that such a state of affairs is conceivable only now, in the year 1932. No, similar conditions have been experienced more than once in the history of the world. Always when relations between peoples produced conditions such as these, the malady affecting these peoples was bound to spread and to influence the position of all.
It is, of course, easy to say: we prefer to wait until there is a change in the general position, but that is impossible. For the position which faces you today is not the consequence of a revelation of God’s will, but the result of human weaknesses, of human mistakes, of men’s false judgments. It is but natural that there must first be a change in these causes, that men must first be inwardly transformed, before one can count on any alteration in the position.
That conclusion is forced upon us if we look at the world today: we have a number of nations which through their inborn outstanding worth have fashioned for themselves a mode of life which stands in no relation to the life-space – the Lebensraum – which in their thickly populated settlements they inhabit. We have the so-called white race which, since the collapse of ancient civilization, in the course of some thousand years has created for itself a privileged position in the world. But I am quite unable to understand this privileged position, this economic supremacy, of the white race over the rest of the world if I do not bring it into close connection with a political conception of supremacy which has been peculiar to the white race for many centuries and has been regarded as in the nature of things: this conception it has maintained in its dealings with other peoples. Take any single area you like, take for example India. England did not conquer India by the way of justice and of law: she conquered India without regard to the wishes, to the views of the natives, or to their formulations of justice, and, when necessary, she has upheld this supremacy with the most brutal ruthlessness. Just in the same way Cortez or Pizarro annexed Central America and the northern states of South America not on the basis of any claim of right, but from the absolute inborn feeling of the superiority of the white race. The settlement of the North American continent is just as little the consequence of any claim of superior right in any democratic or international sense; it was the consequence of a consciousness of right which was rooted solely in the conviction of the superiority and therefore of the right of the white race. If I think away this attitude of mind which in the course of the last three or four centuries has won the world for the white race, then the destiny of this race would in fact have been no different from that, say, of the Chinese: an immensely congested mass of human beings crowded upon an extraordinarily narrow territory, an over-population with all its unavoidable consequences. If Fate allowed the white race to take a different path, that is only because this white race was convinced that it had the right to organize the rest of the world. It matters not what superficial disguises in individual cases this right may have assumed, in practice it was the exercise.”