Extracts and notes on Franz Neumann

In 1933 the Third Reich replaced Weimar Republic in Germany. Franz Neumann, the legal adviser to the Social Democratic Party, was arrested in April, but escaped in May and worked at the London School of Economics for some years. In 1936 he went to the United States and joined the Institute of Social Research, which was affiliated with Colombia University. In 1941, his friend Marcuse published Reason and Revolution - Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory which tried to show the inherent rationalism of Hegelian and Marxist theory in contrast with the theories of the National Socialists. In 1942, Neumann published Behemoth, extracts from which are given below. After the war, Neumann joined the faculty of Columbia University, in the Department of Government. On 2.9.1954, Neumann (aged 55) was killed in a car accident in Switzerland. Major articles by Neumann were published or re-published (with an introduction by Marcuse) in The Democratic and Authoritarian State in 1957. I have included an analysis of Neumann's notes on the theory of dictatorship - providing a conceptualisation of the different types of dictatorship.

Behemoth. The Structure and Practice of National Socialism (1942)

Note on the name Behemoth

In the Jewish eschatology - of Babylonian origin - Behemoth and Leviathan designate two monsters, Behemoth ruling the land (the desert), Leviathan the sea, the first male, the second female. The land animals venerate Behemoth, the sea animals Leviathan, as their masters. Both are monsters of the Chaos. According to the apocalyptic writings, Behemoth and Leviathan will reappear shortly before the end of the world. They will establish a rule of terror - but will be destroyed by God. In other versions Behemoth and Leviathan will fight each other incessantly, and finally will destroy each other. The day of the righteous and just will then come. They will eat the meat of both monsters in a feast which announces the advent of a realm of God. Jewish eschatology, the Book of Job, the prophets, the apocryphal writings are full of references to this myth, which is often differently interpreted and often adapted to political circumstances. St. Augustine saw in the Behemoth the Satan.

It was Hobbes who made both the Leviathan and the Behemoth popular. His Leviathan is the analysis of a state, that is a political system of coercion in which vestiges of the rule of law and of individual rights are still preserved. His Behemoth, or the Long Parliament, however, discussing the English civil war of the seventeenth century, depicts a non- state, a chaos, a situation of lawlessness, disorder, and anarchy. Since we believe National Socialism is - or tending to become - a non- state, a chaos, a rule of lawlessness and anarchy, which has 'swallowed* the rights and dignit'y of man, and is out to transform the world into a chaos by the supremacy of gigantic land masses, we find it apt to call the National Socialist system: The Behemoth.

Introductory remarks on the value of National Socialist ideology (pages 37- 39)

The ideology of National Socialism offers the best clue to its ultimate aims. It is neither very pleasant nor simple to study. When we read Plato and Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and Marsilius of Padua, Hobbes and Rousseau, Kant and Hegel, we are fascinated as much by the inner beauty of their thinking, by their consistency and elegance, as by the way their doctrines fit in with socio-political realities. The philosophical and sociological analyses go hand in hand. National Socialist ideology is devoid of any inner beauty. The style of its living writers is abominable, the constructions confused, the consistency nil. Every pronouncement springs from the immediate situation and is abandoned as soon as the situation changes.

The immediate and opportunistic connection between National Socialist doctrine and reality makes a detailed study of the ideology essential. Ordinarily, we must reject the notion that sociology can determine the truth or falsity of a system of ideas by examining its social origin or by associating it with a certain class in society. But in the case of National Socialist ideology, we must rely on sociological methods. There is no other way of getting at the truth, least of all from the explicit statements of the National Socialist leaders.

World domination may not be the conscious aim of National Socialism, but economic and social antagonisms will drive it to extend its realm far beyond Europe. The doctrinal elements of the ideology make this conclusion inevitable, despite all disclaimers, even despite the fact that Hitler himself denounced as 'a stupid and infamous lie' a widely publicized 'speech by Minister of Agriculture Darre that proclaimed world domination as the National Socialist aim. (See his New Year's message to the German people as printed in the Frankfurter Zeitung, in January 1941.) To prove the charge, we must analyze each doctrinal element in turn. Behind a mass of irrelevant jargon, banalities, distortions, and half truths, we can discern the relevant and decisive central theme of the ideology: that all traditional doctrines and values must be rejected, whether they stem from French rationalism or German idealism, from English empiricism or American pragmatism, whether liberal or absolutist, democratic or socialist. They are all hostile to the fundamental goal of National Socialism: the resolution by imperialistic war of the discrepancy between the potentialities of Germany's industrial apparatus and the actuality that existed and continues to exist.

The values and concepts that National Socialism has negated are the philosophical, legal, sociological, and economic concepts with which we operate daily and which characterize our society. Many of them, such as the notion of state sovereignty, which is often thought to be reactionary, reveal their progressive character under analysis and thereby demonstrate their incompatibility with National Socialism. Our study of National Socialist ideology will take up each element in turn and show its actual operation within the political, sociological, juristic, and economic structure of the regime. The categories that will be developed do not necessarily correspond to definite stages in the growth of National Socialist ideology, although some of them coincide.

In its external form, as propaganda, totalitarian ideology differs from democratic ideologies not only because it is single and exclusive, but because it is fused with terror. In the democratic system, an ideology is one among many. In fact, the term 'ideology' itself implies a competitive relation among several thought structures in society. The National Socialist doctrine may be called an 'ideology' only because it competes in the world market of ideas, as it were, with other ideologies, though it is, of course, sovereign and single in the domestic market. The democratic ideology is successful if it can persuade or attract; the National Socialist ideology persuades through its use of terror. To be sure, in democracies, too, material benefits accrue to those who accept the prevailing ideologies, and those who do not suffer occasional violence, but the democratic system at least allows for criticism of such alliances and offers an opportunity for competing elements and forces.

National Socialism has no theory of society as we understand it, no consistent picture of its operation, structure, and development. It has certain aims to carry through and adjusts its ideological pronouncements to a series of ever-changing goals. This absence of a basic theory is one difference between National Socialism and Bolshevism. The National Socialist ideology is constantly shifting It has certain magical beliefs-leadership adoration, the supremacy of the master race -but its ideology is not laid down in a series of categorical and dogmatic pronouncements.

Moreover, changes in its ideology permit us to determine whether or not National Socialism has succeeded in gaining the sympathy of the German people. For, where there is an immediate connection between the declared ideology and the political reality, the shifts in doctrinal formulation must be occasioned by the fact that specific strata of the German population have not been attracted by the earlier doctrine.

The new society

Does such a system deserve the name of law? Yes, if law is merely the will of the sovereign; definitely not, if law, unlike the sovereign's command, must be rational either in form or in content. The National Socialist legal system is nothing but a technique of mass manipulation by terror. Criminal courts, together with the Gestapo, the public prosecutor, and the executioners, are now primarily practitioners of violence. Civil courts are primarily agents for the execution of the commands of monopolistic business organisations.

BEHEMOTH (pages 459 following)

We have finished our discussion. We have by no means covered the whole territory, but the evidence we have collected may be sufficient to warrant an interpretation of the decisive aspects of National Socialism.

Has Germany a Political Theory?

Every political system can be characterized by its political theory, which expresses its structure and aims. But if we were asked to define the political theory of National Socialism, we should be greatly embarrassed.

National Socialism is anti-democratic, anti-liberal, and profoundly anti- rational. That is why it cannot utilize any preceding political thought.

Not even Hobbes's political theory applies to it. The National Socialist state is no Leviathan.

But Hobbes, aside from his Leviathan also wrote Behemoth, or the Long Parliament, which Ferdinand Toennies edited for the first time from the original manuscript in London in 1889. Behemoth, which depicted England during the Long Parliament, was intended as the representation of a non- state, a situation characterized by complete lawlessness.

The Leviathan, although it swallows society, does not swallow all of it. Its sovereign power is founded upon the consent of man. Its justification is still rational and, in consequence, incompatible with a political system that completely sacrifices the individual. That was clear to Charles II, who had the Leviathan burnt; Clarendon had summed up the book for him in the following words: 'I never read a book which contained so much sedition, treason, and impiety.'

That was also clear to Hobbes's contemporaries, especially Johann Friedrich Horn, the German reactionary political theorist, who perceived the revolutionary implications of a political theory that derived sovereign power from the consent of men. Hobbes's Leviathan also preserves remnants of the rule of law.

Analysis of NEUMANN, F. 1957 THE DEMOCRATIC AND AUTHORITARIAN STATE chapter 9 Notes on the Theory of Dictatorship

"By dictatorship we understand the rule of a person or a group of persons who arrogate to themselves and monopolize power in the state, exercising it without restraint."

This means that some forms of authoritarian rule are not counted as dictatorships. In particular, the Roman [constitutional] dictator and the European "absolute monarch".

1) Roman [constitutional] dictators before Sulla (Roman General died 78BC) do not count as dictators on Neumann's definition because they did not arrogate (take without authority) power, but were appointed lawfully; and because their power was not exercised without restraint, but was defined in scope and duration.

Instead, Neumann says, they are a form of crisis government which is adopted because rule by the Roman Senate was not a suitable form of government for conducting wars or dealing with internal unrest. p. 234

In Rome this led to a true dictatorship when the constitutional provisions proved inadequate to the length of a crisis, for example in a long war.

2) Absolute monarchs had total power, but they were legitimate. A monarch can, however, degenerate into a tyrant by his or her acts. Similarly a usurper (one who arrogates power) can become legitimate because of his or her success. Lenin, for example, usurped power, but as the revolution succeeded he became a symbol of legitimate rule.

Different Types of Dictator

Neumann distinguishes different types of dictatorship according to the scope of the power that they monopolize. The three types that he distinguishes on this scale are: simple, caesaristic and totalitarian.

Simple Dictatorships use the traditional means of coercion: the army, police, bureaucracy and judiciary.

Caesaristic Dictatorships need a popular base. Caesar is obviously one example, he assumed power as a dictator with the support of the Roman populace. Another example would be Napoleon 3rd of France.

A Totalitarian Dictatorship is total in its control. In particular it controls education, communication and economic institutions. The whole of society and the private life of the citizen is integrated into a system of domination which, allegedly, has popular support.

Dicatorship and Democracy

"modern totalitarian dictatorships arise, almost without exception, within and against democracies" p. 244

They use "terror" (non-calculable violence) to get into power and to remain in power, but they also secure a "considerable identification of the oppressed people" with its rulers. p. 245

Caesaristic or totalitarian dictatorship has become the necessary form of dictatorship now that "democracy" has become universally the legitimating factor of a regime.

Reasons for Dictatorship

According to Neumann a dictatorship may be instituted by a democracy, as in Roman constitutional dictatorships - but he prefers to call this crisis government rather than dictatorship - or it may be educational in that it is preparative to a democracy, or it can be the negation of democracy - pure repression. p. 248

The "dictatorship of the proletariate" was supposed to be an educational dictatorship. Another example given by Neumann is the rule of Pisitratus in Athens. Here a dictatorship prepared the way for Athenian democracy by suppressing the aristocratic class. In Russia, however, democracy had not developed from the dictatorship of the proletariate. Why not?

In terms of class relations the functions of dictatorship are related to three recurring situations:

  1. An insurgent class has been denied political power and the dictatorship secures power for it. Two examples are Cromwell and Lenin.

  2. A declining class is trying to preserve its power. An example would be Franco.

  3. It may be "the attempt of what one might call doomed classes to change radically the socio-economic situation, to reverse it, and to install a political system that would restore them to their old pre- eminence". The examples here are Hitler and Mussolini - the doomed classes being the old middle classes (?)

Industrial Society

A dictatorship is a form of government that may be adopted in certain configurations of class conflict. Here Neumann's argument is very similar to what Marx and Engels said about Napoleon 3rd. [The "Bonapartist" argument].

But the totalitarian aspect of modern dictatorships is not due to the configuration of classes, but to the needs of an industrial order, whatever its class composition.

"A fully developed totalitarian dictatorship is the form an industrial society may adopt if it should become necessary to maximize its repressive elements and eliminate its liberal ones." p. 246

[Totalitarian regimes were created before industrialization, however - in Sparta, for example]

An industrial society has highly complex hierarchical structures (people have to follow complex rules), but this goes along with self-activation - People have their own internal motivation for following the rules.[p. 251]

So, if the liberal elements are to be eliminated from that kind of society a functional substitute has to be found for this complex rule-following combined with self motivation. The answer is totalitarianism. In this there is a synchronization of social organisation combined with the conversion of culture into ideology to motivate people. Examples of this ideology are the "fake" solidarity of corporatism under Mussolini, the "folk community" under Hitler and Stalin's alleged "classless socialist state".

Psychology has to be brought into the argument to explain why people accept these fake communities.

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