Obama’s Struggle

Revised February 18, 2009

Ayn Rand[1] and Leonard Peikoff[2] have written about how the ideas of Nazi Germany are taking hold in the United States. The election of Obama as President is a large step down that same deadly road to a Nazi-style state.

Here is a passage from a widely-known but not widely-read book from a few generations ago. Some particulars have changed since then, but the essential ideas should be familiar to those who follow contemporary politics.

The greater the individual’s readiness to subordinate his own purely personal interests is, the more increases also the ability for the establishment of extensive communities.

This will to sacrifice in staking his personal labor and, if necessary, his own life fo rothers, is most powerfully developed in the Aryan. He is greatest, not in his mental capacities per se, but in the extent to which he is ready to put all his abilities at the service of the community. With him the instinct of self-preservation has reached the most noble form, because he willingly subjects his own ego to the life of the community and, if the hour should require it, he also sacrifices it.

Not in the intellectual abilities lies the Aryan’s culture-creating and building ability. If he had only these, he would always be able to work only destructively,but in no case ‘organizingly’; for the innermost nature of all organization is based on just the fact that the individual renounces representing his personal opinion and his interests and sacrifices both in favor of a majority of people. Only by way of the general community is his share returned to him. Now, for instance, he no longer works directly for himself, but with his activity he joins in the frame of the community, not only for his own advantage, but for that of all. The most wonderful explanation of this disposition is offered by his word ‘work,’ by which he does not mean an activity for gaining his living, but only a creative toil that does not contradict the interests of the community. …

This disposition now, which causes the individual’s ego to step back in the face of the preservation of the community, is really the first prerequisite for any truly human culture. Only out of this all the great works of mankind are able to originate, works which bring little reward to the founder but the richest blessing to posterity. Out of this alone one can understand how so many are able to sustain a poor life in honesty, which imposes only poverty and modesty on themselves, but which guarantees the fundamentals of the community’s existence. Every laborer,every peasant, every inventor, official, etc., who works without ever being able to attain happiness and well-being, is a carrier of this high idea, even if the deeper meaning of his actions remained hidden to himself forever.

But what applies to work as the basis of human nutrition and all human progress applies to a far greater extent to the protection of man and his culture. In giving up one’s own life for the existence of the community lies the crowning of all will to sacrifice. Only this prevents everything that human hands have built from being overthrown again by human hands, or destroyed by Nature for herself.

But just our German language has a word which in a glorious manner describe acting in this sense: fulfillment of duty (Pflichterfiillung) ; that means, not to suffice for oneself, but to serve the community; this is duty.

Now the basic disposition out of which such an activity grows we call idealism, to distinguish it from egoism. By this we understand only the individual’s ability to sacrifice himself for the community, for his fellow citizens.

Just in such times, when the ideal attitude threatens to disappear, we can at once recognize a reduction of that force which forms the community and thus gives culture its presumption. As soon as egoism becomes the ruler of a nation, the ties of order loosen, and in the hunt for their own happiness people fall all the more out of heaven into hell. Even posterity forgets those men who only serve their own advantage, and it praises as heroes those who renounce their own happiness.

The Jew forms the strongest contrast to the Aryan. Hardly in any people of the world is the instinct of self-preservation more strongly developed than in the so-called ‘chosen people’. [3]

… the Jew is led by nothing but pure egoism on the part of the individual.[4]

As some of you may have recognized, this book is Mein Kampf.

One of the big lies by our contemporary intellectuals is the notion that Fascism and Nazism are at the opposite end of the political spectrum from socialism. In fact, Fascism and Nazism are variants of socialism. The word “Fascism” comes from the Italian word “fascio,” which means “bundle.” The full name of the Nazi Party was the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany.

In his Proclamation by the Government to the German Nation[5], on his third day in office as Chancellor, Hitler spoke these words:

Millions of the finest German men and women in all stations of life have had to behold with heavy hearts the unity of the nation breaking up and disappearing in a welter of egoistic political theories, selfish business interests and conflicting social doctrines.

Millions of our proletariat are without work and without means of existence, and the entire middle class is rapidly becoming impoverished.

The national government will regard it as their first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. They will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built up. They regard Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.They are determined, without regard for class and social status, to restore the nation to a consciousness of its political and national unity and of the duties consequent upon this realization.

The National Government intends to solve the problem of the reorganisation of trade and commerce with two four-year plans:

The German farmer must be rescued in order that the nation may be supplied with the necessities of life.

A concerted and all-embracing attack must be made on unemployment in order that the German working class may be saved from ruin.

Compulsory labour service and the “back-to-the-land” policy are two of the basic principles of this programme.

The securing of the necessities of life will include the performance of social duties to the sick and the aged.

May God Almighty give our work His blessing, strengthen our purpose and endow us with wisdom and trust of our people, for we are fighting not for ourselves but for Germany.

Compare these words from Hitler with those from any speech by Obama—for example, his Announcement for President, Feb. 10, 2007—speeches filled with such demands as “shared sacrifice and shared prosperity” and such claims as that “we are our brother’s keeper.”

Socialism, Fascism, and Nazism (which essentially is Fascism with some racism thrown in) differ from each other in superficial ways, as sects of the same religion differ. Each worships some group–an economic class, a nation, a race–and demonizes and subjugates the individual. Each is derived from the philosophic tradition of Plato, culminating in the ideas of the German philosophers Kant and Hegel. According to Hegel, Marx, Mussolini, and Nazi writers, particular individuals are not really real. What is really real is the whole of society. The consequence of this view of reality is the ethics of sacrifice of the individual to the group. Hegel wrote, “A single person, I need hardly say, is something subordinate, and as such he must dedicate himself to the ethical whole.” His next sentence was: “Hence if the state claims life, the individual must surrender it.”

Under Socialism, the means of production are owned by the state. Under Fascism and Nazism, in contrast, individuals are allowed to retain ownership of some property. But this ownership is in name only; the property is controlled by the state, which tells the owners what products they can produce, to whom they can sell, what prices they can charge, whom they can hire and fire, what wages to pay, and what to do with the profits if any. This policy is like saying, “We’ll let you stay married to whom you want, but we’ll tell you whom you can live with.”

How has the United States of America, the land of individual rights, of the individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, come to elect a President who is essentially a Nazi? For one thing, the President-elect ran against the record of an incumbent who was a Fascist, and his two main rivals were Fascists too. More broadly, the United States has been drifting gradually toward Fascism and Nazism for the past century. The ideas of the German philosophers Kant and Hegel have conquered America’s intellectual establishment as well as Germany’s. The conquest of America took longer, and it required an intermediary step: the neo-Kantian/Hegelian school of philosophy known as Pragmatism, led by John Dewey, the father of modern American education. According to Dewey, reality, knowledge, truth, are no more than products created by group consensus. What we need, therefore, is not a Fuhrer, but a committee. Nevertheless, the goal of subjugating the individual to the group is the same as Hegel’s.

Today’s politicians are kinder, gentler Fascists and Nazis. As long as everyone agrees, there’s “no problem,” because what is agreed to, what the group believes, is what is real. There’s no need to be overtly bloodthirsty and violent, as the old Nazis were, though it is okay to befriend those who are bloodthirsty and violent. But there’s no need to be violent, unless certain individuals refuse to agree, to come together, to unite, to share their prosperity, share in the sacrifice.

Today’s politicians don’t overtly try to kill the greedy, money-grubbing Jews, though they try to get Jews to agree with those who do try to kill Jews. Today there are new greedy, money-grubbing scapegoats: Wall Street, Big Oil, the Drug Companies, speculators, special interests, CEOs.

The kind of change that America needs–exactly the opposite of the kind of change advocated by Hitler, Mussolini and today’s political leaders–was identified by Ayn Rand a half century ago. It is fitting, therefore, to close with a passage from that great champion of freedom.

Capitalism was destroyed by the morality of altruism. Capitalism is based on individual rights–not on the sacrifice of the individual to the “public good” of the collective. Capitalism and altruism are incompatible. It’s one or the other. It’s too late for compromises, for platitudes, and for aspirin tablets. There is no way to save capitalism–or freedom, or civilization, or America–except by intellectual surgery, that is: by destroying the source of the destruction, by rejecting the morality of altruism.

If you want to fight for capitalism, there is only one type of argument that you should adopt, the only one that can ever win in a moral issue: the argument from self-esteem. This means: the argument from man’s right to exist–from man’s inalienable individual right to his own life.[6]

 

[1] See, for example, “The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus,” published in The Objectivist Newsletter, May and June 1965, and reprinted in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, New York: Signet (pb), 1967, pp. 202-220.

[2] Peikoff, Leonard (1982), The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America. New York: Stein and Day.

[3] Hitler, Adolf ([1925], 1941), Mein Kampf. Translation prepared under the auspices of Alvin Johnson. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, pp. 407-412.

[4] Ibid, p. 416.

[5] Hitler, Adolf (1941) The New Germany Desires Work And Peace. Speeches By Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler The Leader Of The New Germany. With An Introduction By Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Berlin: Liebheit & Thieson, pp. 5-9.

[6] Rand, Ayn ([1962,] 1967), “Conservatism: An Obituary.” Reprinted in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. New York: Signet (pb), pp. 200-201.