Slanging Hitler and Hitlerism is not going to help. We must realize that there are things happening in Germany and all over the world today that go much deeper than the Jewish question. There is a breakdown of normal conditions. There is an eruption of desperate feeling caused #y desperate conditions, and desperate remedies are sought not out of a spirit of perversity, but because the normal methods have been tried and found wanting.
We are now paying the price of the War. The toll of lives was paid at the timeâ€”on the nailâ€”the economic toll is being paid nowâ€”the bills are coming in. Unemployment, starvation, upheaval are stalking the world. And the Jews represent but an infinitesimal proportion of the world-wide suffering.
King Edward once said that two people sitting at ease in their armchairs after a good lunch, smoking cigars can agree on anything. But few people can be amenable and generous and tolerant on an empty stomach. Starving people, desperate, hopeless people, people who are drifting on a sea of uncertainty and misery are inevitably bitter.
There is immense justifiable bitterness behind the German situation, and a despair akin to that of Samson when he toppled the Philistine temple with all in it on to his own head.
We shall only be deluding ourselves into believing something that is not, if we get it into our heads that Liberal opinion, however much it may deplore, and even fight Hitlerism, regards it as such an unredeemed sinister movement, without any positive aspects. We know that Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Bernard Shaw and many others who stand for progressive opinion, have expressed themselves in terms not altogether condemnatory of Hitlerism. And in the lower grade of Liberal leadership the same realization that there is something more than mere perversity and brutality in Hitlerism is finding its voice to an increasing extent.
The idea that Hitler and Goering and Goebbels are maniacs and drug fiends and child-beaters is being dropped by responsible Liberal newspapers. The belief that the Reichstag fire was their work is no longer held to be true. Besides which, the Reichstag fire has no Jewish angle, and not even a Jew among the accused. Those who will take up any stick, however knobbly and pitch-smeared, so long as it will do to beat Hitler with, will begin to find that sane world opinion will look at them askance when they come to it with real grievances.
Mistaken Hitlerists may be, but do not lack idealism because their idealism is not ours. And their most persistent enemies are beginning to admit grudgingly that they are able. Goebbels has established himself as an able propagandist. Some of the land-settlement and unemployment-solving schemes of the Nazis are being examined seriously by economists and statesmen in other countries.
We shall not make it easier to fight the wrongs that Hitlerism inflicts on us, if we deny its force and its power, and assume that it is a paltry thing. Running your head at what you think is a smoke-screen and discovering on impact that it is a solid brick wall is an experiment that generally proves fatal.
Here is Mr. Gareth Jones, a well-known Liberal, speaking at the Manchester Reform Club on the Nazi movement as he has on frequent visits to Germany observed it. He begins by making it clear that as a Liberal he does not sympathize with Nazi-ism, but adds that “it is inspired by some not unworthy idealism.” One of the many causes of the movement, he points out, was the failure and the impotence of democracy in Germany. He had asked one German who was prominent in university life why he, as a former supporter of democratic movements had now given his support to Hitlerism. The reply was that he was tired of the rivalries of some 36 parties and the corruption that sprang from the existence of so many party groups.
And there was their inertness, their inability to act. The Social Democrats and the Democrats who came in after the 1918 Revolution enjoyed then a power as great as that of the Hitlerists now. They had the country solidly behind them. The people were sick of war and war-mongers. The junkers and their allies were routed and lay low. Democracy had unlimited power. And it frittered it away, the various groups cancelled each other out, and the country got no move on. They did not even carry out their own program. The people lost hope in them and began to turn to those who held out the promise of getting things done.
Another sound Liberal, Mr. Robert Bernays, M. P., who has spent a lot of time in Germany recently, also finds the swift rise of Nazi-ism caused by the grave defects in the Democratic governments of Germany, where no party had a majority and where there was no possibility of coalition.
As for Hitler, says Mr. Bernays, he becomes on the platform a man with a message of flame, a man with one fixed idea, the regeneration of Germany. Hitler was the first great orator Germany had ever heard, and it was on the platform that he captured the imagination of the people.