MEIN KAMPF, Adolph Hitler
There is no way to review this book at once. The author’s strength is speech, specifically oratory. The first thing to know, the purpose of oratory is not to be reasonable and sensical. It is directed to the emotions of human beings, as though humans are being entertainment and are captured by the art of the speech before them. Hence, this author purposefully avoids attempts to explain anything in English or German.
It is not unusual for the modern reader to find any more of interest in the text than I did: 6.5 pages of 686 pages, less than one page of interesting text out of 100 pages. One poignant set of sentences explains why Adolph believes in Catholic priest celibacy. (p. 432) Adolph also likes to talk about syphilis and prostitution. (pages. 251, 254-55)
How hard is it to upset emotional prejudices, moods, sentiments, etc. and to replace them by others, on how many scarcely calculable influence and conditions success depends, the sensitive speaker can just by the fact that even the time of day in which the lecture takes place can have a decisive influence on the effect. The same lecture, the same speaker, the same theme, have an entirely different effect at ten o’clock in the morning, at three o’clock in the afternoon, or at night. (page. 473)
Sunday morning at ten o’clock. The result was depressing, yet at the same time extremely instructive: the hall was full, the impression really overpowering, but the mood ice cold; no one become war, and I myself as a speaker felt profoundly unhappy at being unable….
This should surprise no one. Go to a theatre performance and witness a play at three o’clock in the afternoon and the same play with the same actors at eight at night,
encroachments upon man’s freedom of will…(p. 474)
In the morning and even during the day people’s will power seems to struggle with the greatest energy against an attempt to force upon them a strange will and strange opinion. At night…they will succumb more easily to the dominating force of a stronger will.
…mysterious twilight in Catholic churches, the burning of lamps, incense,
goal of oratory is “illiterate common people.” (page 475)
Since organization in the text is lacking, I write what Adolph says why organization is not important – in books or in politics. His first point made a few hundred times throughout the book: Adolph does not want anyone suspecting it was written by anyone academic, intellectual or disciplined. It necessarily stands to reason that Adolph prizes the superficial, craves spontaneity and revels in the nonsensical.
I am an enemy of too rapid and too pedantic organizing. It usually produces nothing but a dead mechanism, seldom a living organization. For organization is a thing that owes its existence to organic life, organic development. Ideas which have gripped a certain number of people will always strive for a greater order, and a great value must be attributed to this inner molding. Here, too, we must reckon with the weakness of men, which leads the individual, at first at least, instinctively to resist a superior mind. If an organization is mechanically ordered from above, there exists a great danger that a once appointed leader, not yet accurately evaluated and perhaps none too capable, will from jealousy strive to prevent the rise of abler elements within the movement. That harm that arises in such a case can, especially in a young movement, be of catastrophic significance.
…it is more expedient for a time to disseminate (p. 579)
This poorly constructed paragraph has three topic sentences; none are developed; none are related. For instance while arguing with himself about the value of organizing, he calls it dead but preferably a living development. What is being developed, dead or alive, organic or inorganic is not explained.
He next complains about the weakness of men, “resisting superior men.” Adolph includes himself among the superior minds. He always complains about people who read to gain knowledge, stiff intellectual types. Instead the best knowledge comes through oratory.
It is impossible to use oratory to extend wisdom or intelligence. It should be pointed out that during his life time, no one in Germany believed it necessary or worth while to memorialize any of Adolph’s words in stone. And note, Adolph was an absolute dictator in a totalitarian system.
Adolph’s third topic sentence demonstrates the jeopardy of this non-organizational approach. If the group leader does not know why he is doing, if he’s not on the ball and he’s wet behind the ears, and he is likely not the leader.
This is the ever-present fear existing in a movement: Following one path without realizing a different path needs taking, is catastrophic.But if a leader does not have the mental, social and acuity to advance the movement, it is time to choose anew.
Adolph believes wrongly that organization can be achieved by propaganda – use slogans, express fears, advance wants. Solutions should seem simple, however impracticable Adolph gives pages of propaganda notes, most of it is ridiculous and simplistic, except to a German.
Yet most political organization cannot survive on propaganda – use slogans to support an entire party, express policies of fearsome offer and advance hope based upon hate. Adolph omits the germs of ideas which stick with people into the future. It is the future sale of politics that Adolph finds tedious, boring and completely unpredictable. That was the history of him and his party. The Nazis were never the majority. Circumstances let them take executive offices, and Hindenburg’s death allowed Adolph to take all power.
The text of the MEIN KAMPF and subsequent events should not be considered inevitable, yet the readers and students frequently look at each and consider the book prescient. At best the text shows the sort of crank Hitler was when he became involved in German electoral politics, and it projects how he played to a exceptionally unsophisticated political people.
A note about the text in English. I’ve seen two English translations, 1943, and the most recent published as late at 1999. In each Edition are 686 pages; pretty much the words from page to page and the pages are also the same. Hence the page numbers above and in subsequent comments are from the 1943 edition.