by Georg Lukacs
Nietzsche is the leading philosopher of reaction for the whole imperialist period, and not only in Germany. Like the influence of his teacher Schopenhauer, Nietzsche's influence goes everywhere beyond the narrow circle of university philosophy, extends to many strata of the intelligentsia and through their mediation to large sections of the people in many countries. From Mereshkovsky and Gide to Spengler, Baeumler and Rosenberg, there was not a reactionary current in the imperialist period that did not absorb something important from Nietzsche's teachings. And the danger of this effect - here, too, there is a parallel with Schopenhauer - is shown by the fact that there are quite a few ideologues of the imperialist period who are essentially moving in a progressive direction, but who at times are on the wrong track in their ideological development, led by Nietzsche. (I refer only to Thomas Mann and Bernard Shaw.)
A parallelism between Schopenhauer and Nietzsche also exists in the nature of their activity and their effectiveness. Both were so-called "unrecognized geniuses" at the time of their actual work. Just as Schopenhauer only gained recognition after the defeat of the 1848 revolution, so Nietzsche only gained recognition during the imperialist period. Both struggled with progressive or tentatively reactionary aspirations. Thoughts were worked out in their time, which only became the focus of ideological struggles through the more developed reaction of a later period. Therefore both went unnoticed at first and only later became world-famous.
Nietzsche's world impact is based on the fact that he found a suitable psychology, ethics and aesthetics for the decisive reactionary currents in domestic and foreign policy in the imperialist period, that he led large circles of the intelligentsia into the camp of reaction in this detour, circles which would not have succumbed to crude and direct propaganda. This effect increased more and more with the unfolding of the inhumanity of our time. It reached its peak under Hitler's rule, which officially proclaimed Nietzsche a classic, the forerunner of fascist ideology. In his polemic against the "followers" who set up various other pedigrees of fascist ideology, Rosenberg emphasizes that the Nazis recognized only Nietzsche, Lagarde, and Chamberlain as "their philosophers" in the past.
It is no coincidence that the events of 1870-71 played a decisive role in the development of Nietzsche's reactionary tendencies. As a young professor, Nietzsche volunteered in the Franco-Prussian War and took part in the war as a medic. He fell ill fairly soon, however, and returned to Basel, but the impressions of the war marked a decisive period in his philosophical development, the first step in furthering Schopenhauer's philosophy of will. His sister and biographer, Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche, describes his impressions of regiments going into battle, certainly based on verbal information from Nietzsche himself: "At that time he first felt deeply that the strongest and highest will to live was not in a miserable struggle for existence, but as a will to fight, as a will to power and superiority."
The enthusiasm of the young Nietzsche for the war of 1870-71 does not only determine the general metaphysical basis of his philosophy. His immediate impressions of the war, the hopes he pinned on Bismarck's founding of the Reich, also have a more general content, a concrete political and social line that is decisive for all of his later work. It is the struggle he waged throughout his life against the liberal and democratic ideology of his time. A foreword to his first work The Birth of Tragedy was published from the estate, which Nietzsche drafted in the war winter of 1870-71; there he clearly states why he is enthusiastic about the founding of the Reich: "because in that power something will perish that we hate as the real opponent of every deeper philosophy and art consideration, a state of illness from which the German character has been suffering primarily since the Great French Revolution ..., not to mention the great crowd, in which that suffering is called ... liberalism". The fact that Bismarck did not live up to Nietzsche's expectations in this respect, since he constantly made pacts with the national-liberal German bourgeoisie and did not break up the pseudo-democratic forms of the German Reich, is the reason for Nietzsche's later uninterrupted and increasingly violent polemics against the Bismarck regime.
The struggle against democratic and liberal ideology would not make Nietzsche an original thinker. This struggle is the general characteristic of every Romantic critique of capitalism. Even the reactionary features of this critique, which are becoming ever more prominent, do not yet contain anything essentially new. We also see it pronounced in Carlyle after the 1848 revolution. But Nietzsche's critique of liberal ideology is more reactionary than Carlyle's. On the one hand, Nietzsche works in a capitalistically more backward country, on the other hand, the class struggle had already reached a much higher level than in Carlyle's time. This determines the special character of Nietzsche's Romantic criticism of culture. He had never found sympathy for a popular revolt against capitalism like Carlyle did in the 1830s and 1840s. So what after 1848 meant a break in Carlyle's line of development, developed organically in Nietzsche. The impact of the Paris Commune on Nietzsche only reinforces his reactionary views, while the 1848 revolution turns Carlyle around. Under the direct impression of the Commune, Nietzsche writes to a friend: "Beyond the struggle of the nations, that international hydra head frightened us, which suddenly came to light so terribly as an indicator of completely different future struggles."
The difference in the place and time of their activity determines the difference between Carlyle's and Nietzsche's Romantic critique of capitalist culture. Both criticize the capitalism of their time as destroying real culture. Carlyle glorifies the early Middle Ages as a period of economic order opposed to capitalist anarchy, when a social system which provided for the workers and saved them from material and moral misery, again opposed to the free competition of his time. Nietzsche, on the other hand, is a glorifier of antiquity.
But the antiquity, which he set up as an ideal, stands in stark contrast to the ideal of classical humanism. While the latter took note of slavery as a historically necessary evil of antiquity, in Nietzsche it became the focal point of idealization. In later published fragments of the planned second part of his first work, he writes: "Accordingly, we must understand how to present it as a cruel-sounding truth that slavery is part of the essence of a culture: a truth, of course, that leaves no doubt about the absolute value of existence." The last sentence contains the germ of Nietzsche's later philosophy. The linking of this statement with Schopenhauer's pessimism is indicative of Nietzsche's still incomplete development, both in terms of form and content.
Just as Schopenhauer himself was led to extremely reactionary views by this pessimism, this tendency also appears - admittedly more sharply and consciously - in the young Nietzsche. In the same reflections from which we have just quoted, he explains: "and if it should be true that the Greeks perished because of their slavery, another thing is much more certain: that we will perish because of our lack of slavery." And here the young Nietzsche also describes the reason for his passionate rejection of modern culture, above all of modern democracy. "In modern times, it is not the person in need of art, but the slave who determines the general ideas ... Such phantoms as the dignity of man, the dignity of work, are the poorer products of slavery hiding from itself." It is only from here that the specificity and the inner connection of Nietzsche's youthful works become understandable: the juxtaposition of ancient culture and modern lack of culture, the struggle against Socrates as the first ideologue of democracy and the plebeian, the passionate attack on the aging David Friedrich Strauss as a type of liberal "enlightened philistine", the glorification of Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner as representatives of the philosophical and artistic genius that gives meaning to human history.
Here one sees everywhere in the bud - of course only in the bud - a new stage of reactionary philosophy, a continuation of Schopenhauer's teachings, the adaptation of his more highly developed reactionary philosophy to the conditions of the approaching new age of monopoly capitalism.
His Romantic critique of capitalist culture made a decisive contribution to Nietzsche's world impact. Defenders of the capitalist system, even in its Prussian anti-democratic and militaristic form, always abounded. What was special about Nietzsche, however, was his effect on a dissatisfied intelligentsia rebelling spontaneously and confusedly against the lack of culture of the time. He directs this rebellion back into reactionary paths in such a way that the intellectuals see something revolutionary in it, even an increase in their rebellion against the lack of culture of the present, and thus to a certain extent see the imperialist ideology as an overcoming of the lack of culture, even of the capitalist character of the grasp of the present. The extent to which Nietzsche worked in this direction can be seen from the fact that even a Marxist of the rank of Franz Mehring could see in his teaching a "point of transition to socialism" and that he was of the opinion - admittedly only for a short time - that from Nietzsche there was no way leading back to the vulgar liberal ideology of Eugen Richter and consorts.
The error of Mehring is extraordinarily significant for the effect of Nietzsche. It is essentially based on the fact that since Lassalle there was a tradition in certain socialist circles of seeing the dominant ideology of bourgeois society exclusively in liberalism, which was becoming more and more vulgar, without recognizing that the path leading from Nietzsche to a new form of reactionary thinking.
Schopenhauer had destroyed objective dialectics with his agnosticism, and with his pessimism and anti-historicism, he destroyed the belief in human progress among the German intelligentsia of the 1850s. He helped create that political passivity and apathy that greatly facilitated Bismarck's domestic victories.
In 1870-71, however, a new situation arose. Its transitional character became noticeable very quickly: partly in the class struggles, which were becoming ever more acute (think not only of the Anti-Socialist Laws but also of the Kulturkampf and the whole conversion of German economic policy from free trade to protective tariffs), partly in the general disappointment of those hopes for a cultural upswing in Germany, which broad circles of the German bourgeoisie and its intelligentsia attached to the founding of the Reich. Germany, the latest developing capitalist country in Western Europe, experienced during this time its economic Sturm und Drang of rapid capitalization of the whole society, in which it covered the path to developed monopoly capitalism in a few decades. Striving for the unity of the German nation is over: it is its reactionary fulfillment. But it is only in Bismarck's illusions that it is the beginning of a long period of consolidation of a saturated Germany. Bismarck ruled for two decades, but was then pushed aside by Wilhelm II, who already represented German imperialism, which was particularly aggressive.
It is significant that Nietzsche, who could only see the beginning of the change of regime in Germany, decidedly sympathized with the new Kaiser. He occasionally writes to his sister: "I like our new Kaiser more and more. The will to power as a principle would be understandable to him." Of course, it does not matter whether Wilhelm II was personally influenced by Nietzsche's theory of the will to power; his foreign policy corresponds to it in any case. The turnaround is important in German politics, which very soon made Nietzsche the leading ideologue of the imperialist period.
It is also important that the victory of Nietzsche's philosophy illuminates even more clearly the nature and content of his struggle against Bismarckian Germany and its culture. Contrary to the opinion of many eminent intellectuals, who see in this struggle of Nietzsche a sign of his revolutionary conception, an argument for the fact that the exploitation of Nietzsche by fascism is a falsification of his basic intention, it can be seen from this that Nietzsche criticized the Bismarckian empire from the right, in the name and in the foreboding of the growing monopoly capitalism, in form and content in a philosophy of decisive reaction, for the demands of which Bismarck did not appear clearly enough. At the same time, however, it is important that this development of reactionary ideology behave in a "revolutionary" manner, as a "revaluation of all values", as a radical destruction of the antiquated and decadent aspects of bourgeois culture.
The union of pseudo-revolutionary form and deeply reactionary content gives the philosophy of Nietzsche from 1890 onwards the meaning that Schopenhauerian philosophy had in the 1850s: an ideology of extreme reaction which gives the appearance of an unabashedly revolutionary outlook. Schopenhauer and after him, to an even greater degree, Nietzsche thus ushered in a new stage in the defense of reactionary capitalism. Up to now, normal and ordinary apologetics have endeavored to show that the economic and political, social and cultural contradictions of the capitalist system, which are becoming ever more acute, do not in fact exist, that this system ultimately guarantees social "harmony". This basic assertion of liberal apologetics of bourgeois society has been increasingly refuted by the development of the capitalist economy and was therefore less and less able to influence the more awakened and educated part of the intellectuals. The development of society is beginning to drum the dialectics of social contradictions into people. It is no coincidence that precisely the period in which Nietzsche became effective was a period of ideological crisis in Germany, in which a strikingly large part of the young bourgeois intelligentsia became too sympathetic to socialism, even if only temporarily.
Effective defense of capitalism at this stage therefore requires a philosophy that not only does not deny the discordant character of bourgeois society but, on the contrary, proceeds from it, but which interprets this discord in a way that leads to affirmation of the capitalist world in its most reactionary form. So while the self-defence of the old liberal type seeks to cover up the bad sides of capitalism, in his defense of the system Nietzsche starts precisely from the bad sides, recognizes them in their entirety, but, as we will show in detail later, exposes them in such a way that monopoly capitalism appears as an inevitable consequence and is unconditionally affirmed. Thus, if the liberal defense of capitalism was direct, in Nietzsche (and even before that in Schopenhauer) an indirect one arises: the badness, the disharmony of the world (that is, of capitalism), the basis of pessimism as the necessary philosophy of "advanced and noble people, free spirits," is just the stepping stone to passionately affirming and working for this world (the world of monopoly capitalism). That here a paradoxical new form of the Credo guia absurdum est (I believe because it is absurd) appears, even gives this philosophy something attractive in the eyes of the bourgeois intellectuals of the time of crisis.
At a more primitive stage in the development of German capitalism, Schopenhauer's work was seen only as a call to passivity and resulted in the German intelligentsia turning away from the path of democratic revolution. Nietzsche already led to the active support of the emerging monopoly capitalism. So we see how wrong Mehring was with regard to Nietzsche's influence. For the young bourgeois intelligentsia at the turn of the century, Nietzsche in no way signified a transitional stage to socialism, but rather the reverse: Nietzsche's influence shortened the period of time in which the bourgeois intelligentsia tended towards socialism; it has led the young generation of talented young intellectuals into the camp of imperialist reaction and decadence - precisely because the structure of Nietzschean philosophy allowed it to make the reactionary turn with the illusion that it was thereby its rebellion against society, whose culture it radically criticized.
A detailed study of the most important personalities of the literary turnaround around 1890 - from Gerhart Hauptmann to Bahr, Hartleben, Harden, Holz, Schlaf and Paul Ernst - would prove the correctness of this statement. It should be particularly emphasized that the path from honest revolt to the innerly mendacious gesture of pseudo-revolutionaryism led Paul Ernst, for example, directly into Hitler's camp. And this tipping over of the left revolt to the side of the extreme right is always repeated at a higher level in every subsequent crisis of German public life. And increasingly, in such crises, Nietzsche is the Musagetes of extreme reaction. His effect on the German intelligentsia fully justifies Rosenberg's recognition of his services to fascism, as quoted at the beginning.
This historical situation explains Nietzsche's position in the German (and in the international) history of philosophy: he is a contemporary reformer of Schopenhauer's teachings, corresponding to monopoly capitalism, and at the same time the fundamental thinker for the dominant philosophical current of the imperialist period, the so-called philosophy of life.
Schopenhauerian pessimism, his philosophy of will, his irrationalism is, as we have seen, the dominant philosophy of the reactionary bourgeoisie of Germany after the defeat of the 1848 revolution. The military and political victories of the Bismarck system (from 1864) force modern training. Because of the historical need for an indirect defense of the capitalist system, the generally pessimistic character of the worldview is preserved. On the one hand, however, there is a need for an activation of morality in the interest of positive and effective support of a Germany that is becoming more and more reactionary, and on the other hand for a "historicization" of the philosophy of will. Schopenhauer helped the reactionary development of 19th-century ideology, the historical concept of progress in particular in its most developed form, in Hegelian philosophy. However, this anti-historical negativity does not suffice for the needs of the reaction in the new period; a historical justification of the new turn in German history is necessary, the perspectives of the new development, of the new period of capitalism (not only for Germany).
These ideological needs are extraordinarily strong in the 1860s, the period in which Nietzsche's world view was formed. Their power is also shown by the fact that Nietzsche was by no means the only thinker who worked on a contemporary transformation of reactionary philosophy during this transitional period; he has only in the long run been the most effective of all his comrades-in-arms.
We only refer to a few examples: In 1868 Eduard von Hartmann appeared with his Philosophy of the Unconscious, which was also a contemporary renewal of Schopenhauerian philosophy of will and pessimism. Hartmann's form was even more contemporary for the Bismarckian period of transition to imperialism. Therefore, for a long time Hartmann outshined Nietzsche's fame, and that only changed in the imperialist period. However, Hartmann is by no means the only one, he is only the most famous of this reactionary group. We only cite Lagarde, who later became a well-chosen ancestor of fascism, and Constantin Frantz.
Nietzsche differs from his reactionary comrades above all in the radicalism of his new-reactionary insights, in the paradoxical tension between pseudo-revolutionary form and reactionary content, in the resolute omission of the old, useless ideological ballast from the pre-1848 period, and in the incorporation of modern elements into the new reactionary philosophy. This leads in a negative direction to the rejection of the views of the later Schelling, which e.g. Frantz and Hartmann continue. Above all, the complete turning away from Christianity and Christian mysticism comes about. In a positive sense, it is a question of working into certain prevailing current efforts in the natural and social sciences, of Darwinism (made into a phrase), of the psychologism and sociologism of the French positivists (especially Taine).
Since Schelling and Schopenhauer, the philosophy of will has served the purpose of denying the knowability of objective reality by conceiving it as something radically contrary to reason, radically irrational. From this follows the replacement of intellectual or rational knowledge by various forms of intuition, which is the only suitable organ for this world view, to come close to the irrational nature of reality. The late Schelling still connected this irrationalism with Christian revelation. This is one of the reasons why his philosophy was supplanted by Schopenhauer's after 1848, who took over the irrational mysticism of the will from Schelling's philosophy and developed it further. It is by no means accidental that the period of Schopenhauer's philosophical rule was also that of the activity of the German vulgar materialists, the Büchners, Vogts and Moleschotts (At the same time, however, Feuerbach's philosophy was pushed into the background). Schopenhauer's tike is atheistic, it is much easier to reconcile with these new strivings than Schelling's Christian mysticism.
Nietzsche goes a step further here: he no longer mystifies any old religion, not even in the uncommitted way of Schopenhauer. With him, atheism, the adaptation of irrationalistic mysticism to the needs of a modern world view, emerges more clearly and decisively. Of course, irrationalistic mysticism is also decisive for him, to which atheism only gives a special contemporary form. Nietzsche's denial of God, like Schopenhauer's, is a religious atheism. In his major poetic work Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche declares: "God is dead." Unlike the materialistic atheists, he does not think that a denial of God necessarily follows from rational, scientific knowledge of objective reality, that philosophy is only faced with the social and psychological problem of how the idea of God came about and changed in the course of history have further developed. With Nietzsche we are dealing with a pseudo-historical mysticism: after him there was a period in which there was one god (different gods); now mankind has entered the period in which there is now no God, in which God died.
The new features of Nietzschean philosophy are already visible here. Schopenhauer's radical anti-historicism is replaced by a pseudo-historical myth. But this one also has a much more modern character than that of its predecessors. The late Schelling expected the reader to believe in Christian revelation. Nietzsche's myth is just as irrationalistic, but oscillates between positivistic disbelief, the (alleged) destruction of historical myths and the fabrication of new, more contemporary, biological myths.
Between Nietzsche and his predecessors lies not only the founding of the empire and the strengthening of the revolutionary workers' movement (commune), but also Darwin's influence on the world. Nietzsche's conversion of the old, irrationalistic philosophy of will into a philosophy of life only became possible on this basis. Of course, it must be emphasized right away that we are never dealing here with the real Darwin, but with Darwinism that has become a phrase, a myth. However, the mythicization of Darwinism is also a general phenomenon of the time and by no means a special trait of Nietzsche. Around the time Nietzsche's first work was being written, Marx wrote the following to Kugelmann about F. A. Lange: "Mr. Lange has made a great discovery. All of history can be subsumed under one great law of nature. This law of nature is the phrase - the Darwinian expression becomes a mere phrase in this application - 'struggle for life, struggle for existence'. So instead of analyzing the struggle for life as it historically presents itself in various specific forms of society, one has nothing to do but translate every concrete struggle into the phrase 'struggle for life'. It must be admitted that this is a very effective method - for conceited, scientifically pretentious ignorance and intellectual laziness."
This criticism applies to an even greater degree to the so-called relationship of Nietzschean philosophy to Darwin. Under these circumstances, it is understandable that Nietzsche's followers argue about whether or not Darwin exerted any significant influence on him. (Simmel, for example, emphasizes this influence, Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche denies it.) Both are right and wrong. It is true that Nietzsche already read Darwin and his followers when he was a student. It is of course always a question of an understanding and an application in the style of Lange. On the other hand, in the course of Nietzsche's development, we see an increasingly violent polemic against his Darwin phantom, because this can only be used as a starting point, as an occasion for his myth, but not as real content, not even in a completely mystified form.
After all, this pseudo-developmental modernization separates the philosophy of Nietzsche from the teachings of his predecessors, especially Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer placed the will to live at the center of his myths. With Nietzsche, this becomes a will to power. This version is of course the result of Nietzsche's entire philosophical development. He begins his career as a fairly orthodox follower of Schopenhauer, although his first attempts at presenting ancient culture and its relevance for the renewal of modern culture go a step beyond Schopenhauer's radical anti-historicism. Accordingly, the further development, the modernization of the mystified concept of will beyond Schopenhauer is still largely spontaneous in this period, the often important deviations from the philosophy of his teacher are mostly still unaware of Nietzsche himself.
The beginning of the conscious turning away from the orthodox following of Schopenhauer's teachings, which is closely related to the disappointment with Wagner and Bismarck, is linked with an approach to the positivist-skeptical currents of the time. It is characteristic of Nietzsche's efforts at that time that he dedicated the first major work of this period, Human, All Too Human (1878), to the memory of Voltaire. It seems as if Nietzsche had thereby taken a radical turn, as if the Romantic critic of the modern culture had turned into a positivist enlightener, as if Socrates' passionate attacker had suddenly become a follower of Voltaire.
But that is only apparently the case. For Nietzsche, Voltaire is only a pretext for intensifying the fight against the ideology of democracy and liberalism. The fight against the plebeian in Socrates goes on, only that now Rousseau and the ideology of the French Revolution occupy as important a place in the polemic as that in his early works. Voltaire is just a pretext to fight democracy in the name of reactionary aristocratism. Nietzsche writes: "It was not Voltaire's temperate nature, inclined towards ordering, cleaning and restructuring, but rather Rousseau's passionate follies and half-lies that awakened the optimistic spirit of the revolution, against which I shout: Ecrasez l'infame!"
Schopenhauer's struggle against the idea of progress - its compromise by the designation "nefarious optimism" - acquires a more developed, clearly counter-revolutionary meaning in Nietzsche than in his mentor: optimism is plebeian and revolutionary and therefore despicable and reprehensible; pessimism means a modern scientific, skeptical, psychologizing, historical attitude, it is aristocratic. A few years later, Nietzsche formulated even more sharply what he meant by the resumption of the Enlightenment in contrast to the old one. "The new Enlightenment - the old one was in the spirit of the democratic herd: equality for all. The new wants to show the ruling natures the way; to what extent they (like the state) are allowed everything that the herd system is not free to do."
Accordingly, there is no real epistemological turn in Nietzsche, we only see a continuation of what Schopenhauer already had in embryo. Nietzsche always presupposed Schopenhauer's Berkeleyan, agnosticist, and solipsistic epistemology, which is now merely recast in a terminology extraordinarily close to modern positivism. Here, too, important parallel phenomena must be pointed out. In the years in which Nietzschean teaching developed, this typical epistemology of the imperialist age emerged. Parallel to Nietzsche's positivist turn, the Kantian Vaihinger worked on his philosophy of as if; at the same time the epistemologies of Mach and Avenarius were formed. And we actually find in Nietzsche everything that later became characteristic of Machism: above all, the struggle against the recognition of the objective reality of the outside world, furthermore the conception of knowledge as a mere ordering of experiences, the purely fictional character of all categories, the theory of introjection. (The latter is particularly energetically emphasized by Nietzsche: "In the end man finds nothing in things other than what he himself has put into them: Finding it again is called science, putting it in is called art, religion, love, pride.") This affinity between Machism and Nietzsche is increasingly recognized in the course of development, and just as in Machism, Nietzsche's extreme subjective idealism, this radical denial of objective reality, i.e. the epistemological struggle against materialism, appears with the claim to transcend itself to have raised the opposition between idealism and materialism; indeed, Nietzsche mostly behaves as if he were waging the main battle against idealism.
On this epistemological basis, Nietzsche builds his philosophy of life; here the relationship to Darwinism, made into a myth, becomes important for his thinking. The complete relativism that emerges in Nietzsche epistemologically knows only a single criterion of truth: how a theory, a morality, an art affects life, that is, to what extent it is life-promoting or life-hindering. Every inclination, the truth an objective meaning (that is, a propensity for objective scientific investigation of reality), Nietzsche condemns as morbid, as decadent, as idealistic.
The Nietzschean concept of life and accordingly his relationship to the mythical Darwinism can only be understood from his social philosophy and morality, although Nietzsche himself gives the impression that he derived all conclusions from biology: Nietzsche's so-called biology is only one, mostly childish, mythical embellishment of its social objectives.
Let us think about the beginnings of Nietzsche. He welcomes Bismarck's founding of the Reich as the end of the bourgeois-liberal lack of culture and is at the same time shocked by the "hydra" of the proletarian revolution, the Paris Commune. He starts from the then pessimistic assumption that no culture is possible without slavery. From here he poses the question of a modern culture, from here his political disappointment with Bismarck and his artistic disappointment with Richard Wagner. The answers he now finds for the future of modern culture make him the leading reactionary philosopher of the imperialist period.
This social philosophy of Nietzsche is of great simplicity and banality. Unacknowledged, at its heart is the passionate struggle against the socialist labor movement. Mehring has correctly demonstrated that Nietzsche cannot claim the slightest originality in his arguments against socialism, but copies almost everything from the works of earlier reactionaries such as Leo and Treitschke. Nevertheless, we consider it important to cite at least one such failure of Nietzsche's in detail, so that every reader can see the connecting path that leads from here to fascist barbarism. In his middle period, Nietzsche writes: "Of the lack of noble form: Soldiers and leaders still have a much higher relationship to each other than workers and employers. For the time being at least, all militarily founded culture still stands high above all so-called industrial culture: the latter in its present form is generally the most common form of existence that has hitherto existed. The law of need is at work here, one wants to live and has to sell oneself, but one despises anyone who takes advantage of this need and buys the work. It is strange that subjection to powerful, formidable, even terrible persons, to tyrants and generals, is not nearly so painfully felt as subjection to unknown and uninteresting persons, as are all the greats of industry; In the employer the worker usually sees only a cunning, sucking dog, speculating on every need, of people whose name, shape, customs and reputation are completely indifferent to him. Up to now, the manufacturers and large-scale entrepreneurs of trade have probably all too drastically lacked all those forms and marks of the higher race which make people interesting in the first place. If they had the nobility of birth in their eyes and in their gestures, there might not be any socialism of the masses. Because these are basically ready for slavery of every kind, provided that the higher one above them constantly legitimizes himself as higher, as born to command - through the noble form! The commonest man feels that refinement cannot be improvised and that in it he has to honor the fruit of a long time - but the absence of higher form and the most notorious manufacturer vulgarity with red fat hands make him think that only coincidence and luck here raised one above the other: come on, he concludes, let's try chance and luck! Let's throw the dice! - and socialism begins."
This attitude of Nietzsche to the emancipation struggle of the proletariat, which leads from Treitschke's typical Prussian reaction to imperialism and fascism, is the key to his struggle against democracy, which in turn forms the crucial part of his philosophy for its effectiveness.
His development shows a constant intensification of his polemics against Christianity. Here, too, his appearance seems to be extremely radical. Nietzsche increasingly felt himself to be the mortal enemy of religion and Christianity. A part of the main literary work that he did not finish is entitled The Antichrist. Because he wittily criticized the whole culture of his time, from the politics of Bismarck to the art of Richard Wagner, because he was described as a very free spirit, as a good European, he passionately attacks Christianity and religion in general, the illusion arises that Nietzsche was an extremely radical fighter against everything backward in his time and for a radical transvaluation of all values. One of Nietzsche's first enthusiastic admirers, the liberal literary historian Georg Brandes, called his philosophy aristocratic radicalism. And it is very characteristic of the process of molting in the most developed bourgeois intelligentsia at the time of the transition to the imperialist period that the liberal Brandes, a pioneer of all modern endeavors, saw an advantage of Nietzschean philosophy in this aristocratic radicalism and felt great sympathy for Nietzsche's "deep resentment against democratic mediocrity". Disappointment with bourgeois democracy and the lack of culture of the time is a sign of a general crisis in the bourgeois intelligentsia. This crisis has led some of its outstanding representatives to democracy, even to socialism. Nietzsche saw his mission in confusing this process of clarification and in leading the bourgeois intelligentsia, caught up in the crisis, into the camp of imperialist reaction. The basic idea of Nietzschean cultural criticism, which had a fascinating effect on entire generations of intellectuals, was that democracy, and not its economic structure, was responsible for all the lack of culture in capitalist society, and that the only way was to break up democracy, to destroy democratic ideology to get out of cultural decadence. For precisely this reason, his polemics are primarily directed against the demand for equality. In it he sees the evil principle, the principle of being contrary to nature and hostile to life.
Only when we clearly see this central point of Nietzschean philosophy can we also correctly evaluate the biological justification of his philosophy of life. This is based on the "aristocratic" character of nature and wants to present the class stratification of society as the eternal biological law of nature. This leads to very childish conclusions by analogy, for which we only give a few significant examples. So Nietzsche says, while he unconsciously parodies the ancient fable of Menenius Agrippa, which is also used in Shakespeare's Coriolanus, in modern terminology: "The body as a ruling entity: The aristocracy in body, the majority of rulers (battle of cells and tissues). Slavery and the division of labor: the higher type only possible by reducing a lower type to a function." Nietzsche now believes that he can apply this "biological law" to society, without noticing that he was naively and unscientifically interpreting a crudely reactionary conception of society as biological pronounced law. Therefore he continues thus: "Conclusion to the development of mankind: perfection consists in the production of the most powerful individuals, the tools of which are made the greatest multitude (the most intelligent and agile tools)."
With such a social world view it will not surprise us that he also thinks that exploitation is a principle of life, that the will to power can be found in nature, in biology, and believes that its inevitability in society is also based on such a biological lawfulness. He writes: "Life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of the stranger and weaker, oppression, harshness, imposition of one's own forms, incorporation and at least, at the very least, exploitation. Exploitation does not belong to a corrupt or imperfect and primitive society: it belongs to the essence of life, as a basic organic function, it is a consequence of the actual will to power, which is the will of life." It is probably clear to everyone without comment that Nietzsche also carries out the same naive and brutal reversal here, to which we pointed out above.
On the basis of such "biological regularity" Nietzsche fights against Christianity and democracy, both of which represent violations of this basic principle of the nature of life. This reveals the true essence of Nietzschean freethinking. His fight against Christianity is based on the fact that he sees in it the ancestor of modern democracy. The equality of souls before God in Christianity is the beginning of democratic degeneration. Nietzsche says: "Humanity was first taught to stammer the principle of equality religiously, later it was made into a morality: what wonder that man ends up taking it seriously, taking it practically! want to say: political, democratic, socialist."
This is the main charge that Nietzsche makes against Christianity. Christianity favors the herd animal, it has risen from the underworld of antiquity, it goes against all the moral instincts of the ruling classes: its founder Jesus was a "political criminal".
But Nietzsche's entire appearance as Antichrist is only an introduction to the fight against modern democracy. "Continuation of Christianity through the French Revolution: The seducer is Rousseau ... Then comes ... that the happiness of all is something worth striving for. Aim be (i.e. the kingdom of heaven of Christ). We are well on our way: the kingdom of heaven of the poor in spirit has begun. - Intermediate stages: the bourgeois (due to money parvenu) and the worker (due to the machine)." And elsewhere he gives the pedigree for "the opposite type of the strong spirit that has become free", namely: "Savonarola, Luther, Rousseau, Robespierre, Saint-Simon".
By violating the "biological basic law" of life, Christianity and the democracy that arose from it are responsible for modern decadence. In Nietzsche's eyes, democracy not only represents the decay of the state, but also and above all the dumbing down of Europe and diminution of the European man. Democracy leads all of mankind down the blind alley of decadence; with the annihilation of inequality, everything high and great disappears from mankind, a deep and general indifference towards all values arises. Democracy produces according to the words of Zarathustra the completely contemptible type of the last man, the negative counterpart to Nietzsche's ideal of the superman. The fascist philosopher Alfred Baeumler describes him, in the spirit of Nietzsche, as a "functionary of the democratic-socialist society." In this rule of democracy, every hierarchy is destroyed, a general rule of the rabble arises. "Rabble above, rabble below", as Zarathustra says.
Forced to recognize that democracy really reigns in the society of his time, Nietzsche must now change his position on Darwinism. We have already become acquainted with his biological aristocratism and the wild mythologization contained therein of fragments of vulgar Darwinism. The superman, the new ideal of his last period, stems from the same biological myth race could hope for, his position on Darwinism was not particularly hostile. The forced insight into the rule of democracy (which he always considers to be temporary) sharpens his position on the struggle for existence. Because this has ended socially with the victory of the "weak", the rabble, how could this doctrine then be right?
To justify his rejection, Nietzsche gives a superficial critique of Darwinism, unweighted by knowledge, e.g. the usefulness of the individual organs, hunger as a motive, etc. They are increasingly being replaced by the myth of the will to power. "Physiologists should remember to consider the preservation drive as the cardinal drive of an organic being. Above all, something living wants to release its power: preservation is only one of the consequences of this." And this childish search for analogies goes so far that he even tries to replace the atomic theory with a will to the power of physical bodies. This critique of Darwinism culminates in the fact that Nietzsche in turn projects his social ideal into nature and depicts the rule of a minority over the masses as a law of nature. "The increase in the type is disastrous for the preservation of the species."
This biological myth is now the basis of his critique of contemporary culture as decadence and at the same time his future perspective of the superman, the transvaluation of all values.
What is important is the double-sidedness of the Nietzschean criticism of decadence. This reflects his position on the Romantic critique of capitalism, both his attachment to it and his difference from it, and especially the points at which he goes beyond it in a reactionary direction. Nietzsche combated the bourgeois culture of his time as decadent, as did the earlier Romantic critics of capitalism. However, he contrasts it not with the feudal culture of the Middle Ages, the age before the general movement of goods, as a positive ideal, as older criticism does, but with the utopia of a more developed, more aristocratic form of capitalism itself, a utopia which is very soon realized in imperialist monopoly capitalism.
His development shows a gradual but ever stronger separation from Romanticism, with which his thinking initially showed a close affinity. The principle of the Dionysian, the mainstay of the interpretation of antiquity in his early works, was taken from Romantic research and generalized by Nietzsche in an extraordinary and unjustified way. (Here, too, Nietzsche is far less original than he imagines himself and than his admirers think.) This initially Romantic concept, however, is increasingly reshaped in Nietzsche and later becomes for him the antithesis of Romanticism: precisely as an expression of the earlier emphasized diversity in their social ideals. The Dionysian principle should contain the affirmation of life, of the emerging new age, in contrast to Romanticism in the proper sense, which descends from Rousseau and is often in contact with democracy. (Nietzsche repeatedly refers to Victor Hugo, Georges Sand, Michelet and others.)
Although Romanticism is condemned as decadence, as nihilism, there is never a complete break. Nietzsche himself knows very well how deeply he is connected with decadence. In his autobiographical work Ecce homo he says: "Apart from the fact that I am a decadent, I am also its opposite." As an astute critic of modern culture, which he knows in many individual psychological and aesthetic symptoms, Nietzsche clearly sees that these two tendencies are continuously merging. He does not distinguish and evaluate what is different according to individual symptoms, but according to whether decadence and nihilism stem from strength or weakness, i.e. according to whether the phenomenon or tendency in question leads to an affirmation or denial of the coming imperialistic period.
In the present, then, Nietzsche sees a mixture of the two related and yet opposite tendencies. According to him, all significant, unusual people of this time must become sick from the rule of democracy. According to Nietzsche, the disgust with democracy (pessimism, nihilism, decadence) that develops and increases to the point of illness can be something positive, a way into the future shows when the people it touches overcome all the plebeian influences of the time, decide to fight against democracy, to transvaluate all values. (In the fourth part of Zarathustra, Nietzsche gives a detailed picture of the different types of decadence and at the same time leaves know within what limits he recognizes them as his allies.)
What does the transformation of people demanded by Nietzsche consist of? Especially of a new picture of the future. Nietzsche believed that the world was growing beyond the narrow nationalism and provincialism of his time, that the age of great politics and great wars was beginning, an age which he considered Bismarck unfit to lead. From a social point of view he develops the following image of the coming lords of the earth: "The sight of the present European gives me a lot of hope: a daring ruling race is forming there, on the breadth of an extremely intelligent herd mass." The task of philosophy is now to create a morality "with the intention of breeding a ruling caste - the future masters of the earth." To bring about this state of affairs requires "a new terrorism".
Let us now consider that morality which, according to Nietzsche, is necessary for breeding such a master race. In the beginning there is a renewed barbarization of the instincts: "A lordly race can only grow from terrible and violent beginnings. Problem: where are the barbarians of the twentieth century? Apparently they will only become visible and consolidate after tremendous social crises." Here Nietzsche is clearly a prophet of Hitlerism.
The ideal of the barbarization of human instincts runs as a guide through Nietzsche's entire development. We can already see it in his early works, as a supposedly original struggle for a deeper understanding of antiquity. The struggle against the academic conventions in the ancient conception, which is justified in details, is the bait for the dissatisfied intelligentsia; the essential content is the discovery of barbarism as the real guiding principle of antiquity. Nietzsche later extended this philosophy of history to the Renaissance, to France in the seventeenth century. He saw models everywhere for the longed-for, coming barbarian type of the future.
According to Nietzsche, barbarism stands at the beginning of every culture, and according to his ideal, barbarism is the conclusion, the culmination of cultural development. In his concluding main work he defines the ideal of the superman as follows: "Man is the monster and super-animal; the higher man is the inhuman and superman: that is how they belong together. With every growth of man in size and height, he also grows in the deep and terrible: one should not want the one without the other - or rather: the more thoroughly one wants the one, the more thoroughly one achieves the other."
Above all, it is necessary to overcome the (Christian-democratic) conscience. Conscience, according to Nietzsche, is the introverted cruelty of the original barbarians, an inversion that is the destructive work of Christianity and democracy. The task of the new morality consists above all in freeing man in this respect, in freeing him from his conscience, in having his original cruelty turn outwards again. Since Nietzsche, as we have seen, sees biological basic facts in oppression and exploitation, his morality wants to eliminate everything that prevents the healthy natural instincts of man from being lived out. "I fight against the thought that egoism is harmful and reprehensible: I want to create a good conscience for egoism." The pessimism of strength, the overcoming of decadence from within, is therefore an affirmation of the animal in man: "The animality no longer terrifies; a witty and happy arrogance in favor of the animal in man is the most triumphant form of spirituality at such times."
Once one has clearly seen these basic principles of the Nietzschean moral and social philosophy, one finds it self-evident that he became the enthusiastic prophet of the militarism of the imperialist period. We have already noted that he regards the militarization of the labor relationship as an ideal. It is only logical that he himself enthusiastically endorses militarism. "I am pleased with the military development of Europe ... The barbarian is affirmed in each of us, even the wild animal." And in complete agreement with his basic views, Nietzsche therefore glorifies the imperialist military state, the growth of militaristic Prussia into the one he dreamed of Coming time of the Lords of the Earth: "The maintenance of the military state is the very last resort, the great tradition, whether it be taken up or maintained, with regard to the supreme type of man, the strong type. And all concepts that enmity and perpetuate the rank distance of the states, may then appear sanctioned (e.g. nationalism, protective tariffs)." Nietzsche, who, as we have seen, generally despised provincialism and nationalism, approves of the latter provided that it becomes the organ of imperialist militarism, of imperialist struggles for world domination, of imperialist wars.
No extensive commentary is necessary to explain the connection of these ideas with all reactionary ideologies of the imperialist period up to fascism. To be sure, the connection is obscured by many admirers of Nietzsche, and the dazzling, unsystematic, aphoristic style of his philosophy also contributes much to the possibility of a blackout. Because in Nietzsche there is a broad, in many ways witty and apt cultural criticism of the capitalist age, in which the barbaric-reactionary basic ideas do not openly appear in every aphorism (even if they form the ideological basis of the cultural criticism). This cultural critique had an enormous effect on the world intelligentsia of the imperialist period, and there are very many presentations of Nietzschean teachings that are expressly limited to them and completely ignore the supporting skeleton of Nietzschean philosophy that we have emphasized. In spite of these - conscious or unconscious - obscurations, the reactionary nature of his philosophy, its will to barbarize humanity, became increasingly clear in Nietzsche's effect. Finally, as we have shown, the fascist Rosenberg gratefully acknowledged this merit of Nietzsche and secured him a place of honor in the pantheon of Nazism as Hitler's ancestor.
Of course, Nietzschean teaching is not identical with the official ideology of Hitlerism. It cannot be because Nietzsche stopped thinking on the eve of imperialism: for him the age of imperialist barbarism is still a dream of the future, while fascist ideology arose as a repulsive product of decay of developed imperialism. This difference in periods also determines the difference in intellectual and aesthetic level. Nietzsche is a man of broad and varied culture, in contrast to the ignorance of Hitler or Goering, the boastful half-education of a Rosenberg or Goebbels; For all his mannerisms, he is a witty and important stylist who - albeit often problematically - has nevertheless worked creatively in language, in contrast to the barbarization and rape of the German language under Hitlerian tyranny. In addition, one could also point out many individual deviations. Nietzsche always despised anti-Semitism.
Despite all these conceptual, aesthetic, and moral differences, Rosenberg rightly named Nietzsche the ancestor of German fascism. For Nietzsche carried the glorification of barbarism into German philosophy, and the more justly one assesses his intellectual abilities, his cultural-critical work, the more clearly one must see that the change he made created the basis for that reactionary development in German ideology, from which fascism then drew its intellectual arsenal.
End of Nietzsche by Georg Lukacs