Category Archives: historical

Free Speech: Individuality and Collectivity

Rudolf Steiner often spoke of the ever-increasing individualism in our age (that period which he named the “Fifth Post-Atlantean Age”, which started around 1400 AD and is due to run until about 3500 AD). This is an inevitable continuing process and will bring many benefits if people are guided by conscience. However, if people are not guided by individual conscience, the forces of the individual will tear apart society.

Against the forces of individualism stands “society”, which encompasses law, unwritten “laws” of convention and expectation and also the powers of the State (which holds itself out as the concrete expression of the people as a whole).

Society is, of course, a good thing. In proper measure, it makes possible and supports such aspects of life as law, public order, organized help for the sick, disabled, elderly, poor etc. It is a structure which supports the family, too. It also provides, via the State,  the structure for defence against outside forces (hostile states, natural calamities etc). However, if taken too far, society and/or the State becomes oppression, involving the repression of individual liberty in various ways (most obviously, perhaps, suppression of free speech or other freedom of expression).

Society restricts freedom of speech. It is hard to imagine a society beyond the most primitive or germinal in which complete freedom of speech exists (eg spoken or written threats against the person). On the other hand, when society (the State, or perhaps a religious or political cult) prevents individual expression, reasonable restriction becomes unreasonable repression. One thinks, perhaps, of the more extreme socialist states of the 20th Century, such as the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, China under Mao Tse-Tung, Albania under Enver Hoxha, Cuba under Fidel Castro. The same was true of anti-socialist tyrannies such as Nicaragua under Somoza.

Particular emergency conditions may lead to a temporary tightening of what is regarded as acceptable free speech. In the Second World War, the various combatants restricted free speech considerably. In the UK, those who spoke out against the war or government policy faced both prosecution (State) and persecution (society generally). Even the USA, with its famous Constitutional safeguards, clamped down on freedom of expression.

As in other fields of life, we can see that the tension between the demands of the individual qua individual and those of the collective results in what amounts to a compromise. It is a question of either where society (in practice, usually the State, but possibly a smaller community such as a town or even a family) decides where the line is drawn, or where the individual draws the line, based on conscience or preference and regardless of where the State and/or society has drawn it.

Most people, most of the time, obey the dictates of the collective. Were that not so, law could not exist except as a facade with nothing behind it (cf. Stalin’s Russia etc); neither could the State or its power, in the end. On the other hand, the individual must always obey conscience and it therefore becomes vital to distinguish between individual conscience and individual wilfulness or egoism. No outside force can decide what is conscience and what is wilfulness or egoism. The individual, the individual human soul, is the only judge or arbiter here. Where the individual and the collective collide, the results can range from martyrdom of the individual to reform or even revolution affecting the collective.

Where do I myself, as both individual and citizen (i.e. part of the collective) draw the line? For me, freedom of expression about social, political and historical matters should be absolute. Other forms of expression (eg threats, libels, fraudulent misrepresentations) can be (and commonly are) restricted to a greater or lesser extent.

It follows from the above that I prefer the approach taken in the United States to that of most EU states (including the UK). Restrictions on freedom of expression are often imposed for or from outwardly “good” motives, but rapidly become a slippery slope with evil results. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.



Reports and Lies

We are accustomed to reading the most arrant nonsense about Adolf Hitler. According to this stream of black propaganda (which started as long ago as the 1920s), Hitler was savage, unforgiving, tyrannical, vituperative, uneducated, a down-and-out from the gutter, a house-painter, sexually perverse, an erotomaniac, impotent, excessively interested in women, a gay, mad, sometimes mad, occasionally mad, only interested in his own material benefit, a tax dodger, even harsh toward his beloved dog, Blondie!

In Hitler’s own lifetime, a pack of lies was spewed out by his enemies: Jewish elements and interests; the Communists and Socialists who, many of them, supported or condoned Stalinism; also journalists working, in effect, for those same groups. During the Second World War, the Soviet Union and the Western Allies maintained huge ministries and agencies dedicated to “black propaganda”. After 1945 the baton was passed to the increasingly prevalent Jewish or Zionist lobby and its major offshoot, the “holocaust” industry, aided by historians who knew that their careers depended on not challenging the approved narrative.

The “Hitler was a house-painter” story seems to have come from a Jesuit priest who was taken to hear Hitler in Munich in or about 1920. He asked what Hitler was (at that time Hitler had few followers and was unknown outside the city); the answer came, “I think that he is a painter of houses” (no doubt a garbled version, heard somewhere, of Hitler’s pre-WW1 life as a struggling art student and painter). In the 1930s, Churchill took up that false version of Hitler’s life as a young man, no doubt calculating that English snobbery would be inherently biased against a political leader with a past involving painting houses or the like. Even today, one occasionally sees reference to Hitler “painting houses”.

The idea that Hitler was “mad” came from an anti-Hitler newspaper editor (probably the half-Jewish scribbler Konrad Heiden), who, in the 1930s, told the American correspondent and anti-Hitler propagandist William Shirer (who posed as an historian after 1945) that Hitler was a “Teppichfresser” (“carpet-chewer”), meaning prone to bouts of insanity when he would supposedly curl up in rage on the carpet and chew the edge of the same. A complete invention, which has coloured the popular view of Hitler ever since, though even the Jewish historians no longer make the exact allegation.

As to the stories and speculations about Hitler’s  sex life, I should imagine that every possibility has now been explored by journalists and historians eager to reduce Adolf Hitler to a sort of freak show. Needless to say, the most likely possibility (that Hitler was “normal” but unenthusiastic) is of little interest, being unlikely to sell books or newspapers.

A more recent allegation has been that Hitler was a drug addict. Again untrue, though there is at least a kernel of fact underpinning this one, in that Hitler’s doctor, Morell, was a medical innovator who did tend to experiment on his patients. Hitler demanded results; Morell tried to provide them:

(actually, though many have quailed at Morell’s preparations, such as the ones that included “intestinal bacteria”, these were the basis for the now-popular “active” yoghurt health drinks for the stomach now found next to the milkshakes in every UK supermarket).

What about Hitler as a vengeful tyrant? This seems to rest mainly on his reaction to the 1944 plotters, who, in the midst of Germany’s fight for survival, saw fit to blow up Hitler and the German High Command at Rastenburg in East Prussia (now in Poland). Yes, they were executed, some cruelly, it seems, but would it have been much different in, say, England, had Churchill been blown up by “traitors” at Ditchley Park (in, perhaps, 1940), alongside his military and naval chiefs?

In reality, Hitler was not a vengeful type. Anton Drexler, the locksmith who founded the then DAP which Hitler joined in 1919, had a serious quarrel with Hitler in 1921. He wrote a letter accusing Hitler of “acting like a Jew, twisting every fact” (!), was removed as head of the party (replaced by Hitler) and was given a purely figurehead position until he resigned in 1924, after which he was elected to the Bavarian Parliament for another party, serving as elected member until 1928. Despite that, Drexler was readmitted to the NSDAP in 1933, honoured (though not given any political position) and died peacefully in 1942. One cannot imagine Stalin treating a similar case the same way!

Another example. The first reports about an attempted putsch in Munich in 1923 (the Beer Hall Putsch, also known as the Hitler-Ludendorff-Putsch), reached the ears of a police commander called Sigmund von Imhoff, who contacted the Reichswehr commander of the city and seized the telephone and telegraph exchange. He was probably the most important reason that the putsch failed (amid bloodshed, Hitler himself being injured as the main march was brought to a halt).

One can well imagine what Stalin, on attaining power, would have done with an officer such as von Imhoff, but under Hitler he was not punished. On the contrary, he was promoted to Police General in 1933 and, in WW2, seconded to the Luftwaffe with the rank of Major General (he died in Bavaria in 1967).

This article could be ten times or a hundred longer, so many lies about Hitler and the Reich have been told and continue to be told. However, the few examples above perhaps will give pause to those who imagine that they have been told the truth about those world-historic events of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.