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Politics and Ideas

One can ask if the relation between politics and ideas truly poses a problem.
For the simple soul, the idea is the direction point that is the driving force of
action, as well. He considers politics as that ensemble of provisions taken to
put in practice the idea by which he understands the state and its institutions.
This idea appears as the task of politics. The objection according to which
political realities are always in flagrant contradiction with the initial idea, is
rejected when one notes with sadness and resignation that imperfection is the
destiny of this fallen world. The idea is always lost when it takes the dress of
reality. Certainly, that is the tragedy of our human existence, but, in no case,
one does not contest the importance of the idea to act on reality.

Finally, the relation between politics and ideas would be easy to understand if
politics was only effectively the realization of an idea that, of course, would
never reach perfection, given the law of the world. But, in reflecting a bit
more, the evident simplicity of this relation is brought into doubt. A good
number of historical observations and political experiences then confirms the

Let us turn, for example, to the epoch of the French Revolution. The ideas
liberty, equality, fraternity arise in all their splendor. They would seize the
heart of the French and not only the French. They equally inflame the
Germans. On the right bank of the Rhine, we receive, with open arms, the
Army of the Revolution. It promised liberty, equality, fraternity and it will
blaze the path to the politics of force and subjugation by Napoleon.
And the experience that we had with the Fourteen Points of Wilson? In its
extreme misery, the German people would cling there with an ardent faith. A
Minister of Finance in Saxony, post-revolutionary but bourgeois, would
confess such great hope in a book that he will entitle: Wilson, das
Shicksalsbuch Deutschlands und der Welt. In this epoch, he could count on
the approbation of millions of Germans, fans of Wilson, during which he
would write: the thought of Wilson is our destiny and the gospel of a new
epoch. For us, the accomplishment of this gospel took place at Versailles.

On one side, liberty, equality, fraternity, and the Fourteen Points of Wilson,
on the other side, Napoleon and Versailles! There, it is no longer about the
realization of an idea under an imperfect form. The meaning of the idea and
political reality are contradictory, are irreconcilable. The contradiction is all
the more painful by the confidence that the idea gave to the decisive causes
of this terrible reality, directing everything else.

Thus, it is evident that the relation between ideas and politics is not direct. To
understand this relation, it is first necessary to analyze what we mean by
the idea.

The term idea has many meanings. In the first place, the ethical norm, the
obligatory duty, the moral requirement have the value of an idea. In this
context, oriented by an idea means to be moral and to act morally.
Sincerity, humanity, and justice are ideas of this type.

These ideas have always played a role in politics. More than one time, they
received the mission of encouraging the perfection of man and to help
sincerity, humanity, and justice triumph. To set such goals in politics means
that one requires that it is moral.
From the moment that we have this requirement, one is confronted by the
ambiguity of the relation between politics and ideas under the form of the
strange relation there is between politics and morals. We know how many
men have the tendency to subordinate politics to morality. He would like
moral principles to have an absolute power. But during the years of war, he
had taken recognition of certain limits on the scope of morality all the same.
For the love of his country, he must kill. To fool the adversary, to bring him to
err, to denigrate him expressly and consciously had become necessities. The
halo that would surround national egoism would shine more than these moral

We note that idea can mean moral requirement, moral law. In this case it
generally has an absolute obligatory character. It is that which must be. It
incites us to choose it as a guideline for our politics.

Certainly the idea is another thing than an ethical norm. It can be the
symbolic expression of the tendencies of the epoch, of the spirit of the age
that predominates or begins to do so this day. In certain periods it was
altogether normal not to put in question the legality of rules or authoritarian
orders. The idea of authority dominated all the political activities, and would
dominate entirely the concept of life. It was characterized by the murky
inclination of the spirit of the times for authoritarian forms. These periods are
followed by others during the course of which, the authoritarian character of
the social order would seem insupportable. The men of the new epoch would
revolt against authority. They would feel themselves provoked to rebellion.
The would act to undermine it and to remove it. All of these tendencies with
their everyday effects that would gnaw at the existing situation to undermine
it, would find in the idea of liberty and its expression that which would
fascinate and encourage them. The ideas of tradition and of progress,
of universalism and of individualism, of the social and political structure of
the nation equally symbolize the currents of the epoch. Behind these ideas,
one feels the beating of the heart and hidden individual desires, in certain
social layers or in all the people. By imagination, they anticipate the desired
state. These are the ideas in the current sense of the term. Although it does
not truly act on moral norms, they appropriate all of the same forms; they
also take on the appearance of that which must be done. They want to be
considered as obligations, as a value which, by reason of its deep
significance, has the right to impose conduct on anyone acting. These ideas,
by taking of form of that which must be done, receive a reflection of moral
dignity. The desires that it hides behind the currents of the epoch, of which
they are the receptacle, are ennobled and transposed from the sphere of
chance into that of the necessary.

To be comprehensive, it is necessary to mention a third accepted meaning of

the term idea. The idea is equally the concept of a thing, the common
essence in a series of like things, the sum of the peculiarities of natural
phenomena, the veritable objective content of a thing that penetrates the
spiritual sphere. The idea is the archetype of the thing. It is that which is
permanent and universal behind the change and the apparent diversity of
reality. In this context, it is somewhat important that we consider the
archetype as a pure product of the spirit, as an abstraction, or according to
Plato, that that which only exists, as metaphysical reality. Ideas in this sense
of the term, connect themselves to substances, qualities, activities, and
relations, to works of art and nature, to that which is precious and that which
is without value, to that which is remarkable or banal, in brief, to all that can
be perceived by the senses, grasped by intuition, or apprehended by the spirit.
So we speak of the idea of the horse or of the book, of the mountain and the
water, of the big and small, of fall and rise, of dependence or autonomy, of
gold or filth of the economy and the state. Finally, we proceed to the
content of those ideas that are descriptive findings. They do not have the
obligatory character of that which must be done. Their task consists of
leading us to the image of the pure essence. In this sense, the idea of the
state is not the model of the state as it should be. It is only the sum of all the
experiences, characteristic traits, released by thought, of a state that lives in
history and whose existence leads to what it is.

We have analyzed what on means by idea. It is also necessary to speak of

that which is politics.

After a phrase known from Bismarck, politics is the art of the possible.
This interpretation further concerns the method that is the essence of politics.
It is the activity of the state and that is what matters. Finally, it only exists
when there is a state. Every form of state affirms it, to extend itself, wanting
the power to utilize it and to play a role in the world. Each state has a line of
conduct, a rule that dictates to it vital, effective, and useful measures that it
must take, given the circumstances and the relations it finds itself in. This line
of conduct is the reason of the state. To discover it is less an affair of
reflection and logic than the product of observation, intuition, a very fine
flair, an innate instinct, a pleasant tactfulness. Politics is the ensemble of
actions commanded by the reason of the state. It comprises all that serves the
conservation and expansion of its power. Politics, in all other accepted
meanings of the term, as an example, party politics, cultural or social politics,
has nothing as fundamental. The concept of politics is simply transposed
into the domains of activities which, directly or indirectly, are in the zone of
influence serving the will and the life of the state, or that which has adopted
certain forms of politics proper.

The instinct of conservation of the state and its will to life

are absolute criteria. It is simply unthinkable to find a value larger than that
for which the state should or could sacrifice its existence. The church would
want to impose on it superior norms, of a religious or moral order. The
Catholic Church, in principle, wants this today. The modern state cannot bend
itself to this requirement. It considers its pride sacred. Fundamentally,
consciously, deliberately, the modern state cannot recognize anything above
itself. It wants to be sovereign over all plans. That which is useful to it, that
which augments its power and increases its value, embodies its morality. It is
true that it finds this sort of morality a bit suspect. It finds itself outside of the
ethical sphere. Manifestly it participates in that which is natural and
elementary. Its categorical imperative commands it to aspire to power without
bounds, independent, and able to deploy itself at its liberty on the interior and
exterior. If it was true, as Burckardt said, that power per se is to be evil, then
the state would be evil and, following, all political activity. Because,
basically, this activity wants to manifest itself to subdue or counterbalance. If
one wants to succeed there and not to go to loss, one must recognize the
relations of force, the possibilities that are found there, but, at the same time,
it is necessary to be ready to use it without gentleness. To use up that which is
given, that which exists, is in the nature of politics.

This scale is impersonal, the focus being put on the subject. Considering the
nature of this success, the result finds itself at the same level as the effect
produced by natural or technical phenomena in the same manner where one
judges things by their result. If one looks singularly on the effect of human
actions, as one does with natural or technical processes, the motives and the
intentions are exposed in a strangely neutralizing light. The motivations, the
origins, and the orientations are without importance. The words of Kant lose
their value: in this world and even beyond that, it is not possible to consider
as an absolute good anything other than good will. The link between
intention, motive, expression of will, and, finally, the result of the action is
interpreted as a type of natural relation between cause and effect. It is seen as
a natural phenomenon and appears like the course of a storm. The air is
charged with electricity, the tension increases, the explosion follows. This
storm can refresh the country or leave the fields devastated by hail. To
joyously approve the phenomenon of the storm in the first case would be as
absurd to express horror in the second case. In an analogous manner, the
action judged according to the effects that it produces is beyond good or evil.
Political activity is such a game and the struggle of forces that must be
treated as totally morally indifferent. Thus one places on the same level the
cannons, airplanes, toxic gas, number of inhabitants, the fertility of the soil,
the apparatus of industrial production, the organization of the state, the
intelligence of its leaders, the national ambition of its citizens, the capacity
for dedication of the masses, the extent of living religiosity, and the force of
moral sentiment. It is necessary give to the people its religion: that is not
the expression of anguish from a religious man who fears fears for the rule of
his religion or who is convinced of its intrinsic and absolute value, but only
the formulation of political and technical instructions: one wouldnt want to
govern a village of peasants who didnt believe in God, as Voltaire would
express in a more cynical manner.

The hierarchy of these forces is established after the result. The rank is not
determined by an intrinsic value which suffices for a degree of utility and
opportunity. Psychic forces, to properly speak, occupy a place in part.
Sometimes, when they manifest themselves massively and simultaneously,
they release an elementary violence. When they appear so intensified and
exacerbated, they become something terribly unsettling, they are not part of
something that we can count, or even approximate. These elementary
impulses are something totally different. Their particular character makes
them difficult to appreciate them as something physical and perceptible, it is
recognized if one considers them as imponderables. Thus, one understands
that politics attempts all the same to submit them to the law of success and
calculation and utility, despite the respectful linguistic distinction.

The account of political results is cheaper than the data, the starting point of
calculation, evaluated with exactitude and objectivity. The data at the base of
politics and its real material is man.

If politics is to ensure success, the human factors must be taken into account
uniquely as they are, without allowing diversion. If it should become the prey
of ideals that man professes with enthusiasm, bravado, and nostalgia, politics
would see it as it would or should be. It would venture on firm ground and
slip into blurriness. It can envision that man is seized and moved by moral
principles. In this fact, it would only become the victim of the illusion that
man is, by the same experience, a being showing some moral capacity. A
mysterious force of attraction exercises itself on the nature of politics and
facts, reality, and beliefs.

They mutually attract as if they were under the hold of a mysterious force
emanating from the heart of things. They agree to correspond with each other.
Thus in the political world, man is only his vanity, his egoism, his weakness,
and his half controlled impulses. The man as that freely developed
personality has the air of awillo-the-wisp which would lure it into the
temptation of following the wrong path.

Consequently, an old wisdom incites incites good legislators to always

envision the worst and to suppose that man is too easily inclined to do evil in
a measure without fixed limits. They see man with the eyes of La
Rochefoucauld. They no longer believe, as Rousseau, that man is naturally
good and do not doubt that he can be fundamentally evil. They approve Saint
Paul, who complained of wanting good but not achieving it. Schopenhauer
said: Learn to know man in all his weakness, as the doctor does it, in all his
wickedness, as the jurist does it , in all his foolishness, as the theologian does
it. Thus politics sees him simultaneously in his weakness, wickedness, and
foolishness. All political rulers of real grandeur are profoundly misanthropic.
Machiavelli, the greatest political thinker, was equally a misanthrope.
Misanthropy is a true element brought to bear by his system. In the third
chapter of his work treating the state, he said: History proves it by many
examples and all the writers agree to say that the society that wishes to give a
constitution and laws to a republic, must presume that all men are bad and
believe that they will show the wickedness of their spirit whenever they will
have the occasion.

Machiavelli reaffirms this conviction when he wrote: The preceding is

proved by the fact that men will never do good without constraints, that all is
disorder and confusion when he is arbitrarily free or allowed to be so.

There is nothing else to do than to note that the matter of politics is that
which is, while the matter of morals is that which should be, besides that,
the scale of values in politics is success, in the domain of morals, good will,
pure intention, the current moral sentiments, it is in noting this, that the real
difference between the two concepts is revealed. Only he who is conscious of
the essence of these two domains can comprehend their relation, which as
always, has occupied the thought of people. Max Weber also thought about
this problem in his important essay, Politik als Beruf. He noted an opposition
between the ethic of conviction and the ethic of responsibility. According to
Weber, there is one difference, If it is according to the maxim of the ethic of
conviction to say religion Christ does good and its God who decides
success according to the ethic of responsibility: one must respond to the
predictable consequences of his actions. This distinction is pertinent. Yet one
demands, if in the representation of the ethic responsibility, one doesnt abuse
the term and the concept of ethics. It is all the same solely that is is agreed to
call it evaluation according to success.

But there is no longer anything to be seen in ethics that is beyond

compromise. For it, the doubting middle cannot even justify if they served
moral ends. From the point of view of success, this middle is useful or
effective, or absurd and useless, but never moral or immoral. Morality is
always based on conviction, on the intention of will. Thus good will is given
to actions even lacking a moral aspect. But only in the measure where
the motive of the action is moral, it partakes in morality. Certainly, in the
sense of responsibility, politics courageously assumed touches of the moral
sphere, but that does not suffice for an action to be moral. The statesman who
uses lies and duplicity to augment the prestige and the power of his country,
starts from a feeling of responsibility towards the grandeur of his people,
cannot justify himself from the moral point of view. Even his sense of
responsibility does not make his lies and duplicity moral acts. It is undeniable
that the points of view of political responsibility and of morality have no
objective relation. Sometimes they can coincide, sometimes they cross,
sometimes they contradict each other. When they are in opposition, the
politician doesnt have a choice. He must decide from the point of view of the
feeling of responsibility. His sense of responsibility will even prevent him
from accomplishing a moral action if it is bad for his people.

Those who feel truly engaged by morality, of the sort who do not want to
save their people at the price of abandoning their moral principles, are
certainly capable of many things, but in no case could they have the vocation
of statesman. As Treitschke said in his Politik: The statesman does not have
the right of warming his hands over the smoldering ruins of his country with
the comfortable satisfaction of never having lied. It is a virtue reserved to

Naturally, he doesnt have the right, it is the situation that forbids him. His
errors and omissions influence the destiny of millions of men. All error,
foolishness, or haste, but equally the wisdom and the fitness to know when to
seize an opportunity has a beneficent or baneful effect, but it has little import
to the good conscience of the statesman. His particular task resides in the fact
that the fate of millions of men is more important to him than the peace of his
soul. It is possible that he prefers this peace to present itself before moral
judges, but it would be condemned by the judges of politics.

He must accept the fact that man is inevitably seen under two different and
opposing angles whether he is seen as a human being or a political subject.
Morality is a personal affair. The man as that individual who received the task
of being a citizen of the moral world. To rise above the empire of feeling
constitutes the greatest value, the highest dignity, as Kant said it, Character
is freedom and independence in respect to the mechanisms of nature. It is
only according to the laws of morality, that man is truly autonomous and self
determined. Under the plan of morality, one gives an immense weight to the
individual who is placed in direct relation with the universe. He has an
experience without limits. His personality is more important than the world
and its riches. The greatest affair of man is to know what he must be to be a
man. It is in the nature of morality to consider character as an objective. He
does not permit himself to lower himself to the rank of the middle. The
sentiment, exacerbated by the right to particularity, to individuality, is normal
in this domain. The cultivated pride in character, which makes constant effort
towards perfection, is opposed to an existence that would be purely physical.
In the sphere of morality, character is considered as the summit attaining
infinity. To be known for character is the supreme happiness.

On the plane of political activities, man seems rather more self-effacing, pale,
monotonous. The importance which, on the moral level, resides in the man
himself, is suddenly elsewhere, it is beyond him. For a creative force, which
grabs all, he is only matter, he is only a little speck. Suddenly, the extent of
his culture, his spirituality, and the stage of his moral evolution become
secondary. Like a spinning wheel, he is integrated into a system, regardless of
that which he could be besides. One should recall the role of a man in the
organization of the army. Individual particularity is completely effaced and
even considered as a disruptive element. The sentiment of individual
importance is reduced to nearly zero. His value no longer resides in that
which he is, but in the function attributed to him. Uniform, grade, decoration
determine his position. One doesnt attempt to count the stage of his moral
evolution. No man is an end in himself. All are means. All the personal and
subtle emotions freeze, putting himself on guard. All is done as part of a
mass, which must take on ranks, which must integrate itself and submit. Man
is only a physical being, an animal. His personal character is hidden under his
uniform, and sometimes he even denies it.

Given this state of things, one understands the discomfort of the intellectual
before the state. The importance accorded to personal particularity, to
individuality, to self-assured personality is constrained by the spirit of the
state. Before its laws, everyone is equal. The state is incapable of
understanding the profundity and finesse of men, and it cannot see them.
Those do not exist for it. It only wants one to obey its laws. Moral law, that
the being bears in himself, is not valuable before it. It is when moral laws
oppose themselves to laws proper that it occupies itself with them. It requires
that it is repealed and if it faces a refusal to obey, it does not hesitate to
punish. These last years, the conscientious objectors have had that

The evaluation of what is human digs a gulf between the moral and the
political. On one side, man, as character, is the supreme good, on the other, he
is only a tiny particle, with no proper value, tossed about in all senses. In
morality, one accords to him the greatest importance, in politics none. Only
the things done by the state can give him importance.

It is true that ethical norms claim a universal validity. Its interior assurance,
its untouchable authority can only triumph on the condition that is can be
applied, in principle, everywhere man is. It would lose its unswerving force
of obligation, if it would accept, willingly, limits on its field of application.
Man, feeling bound by moral law, requires that it reigns in an unlimited
fashion without exception. He would immediately claim an exception for
himself, if he had the precedent.

For this reason, no attempt to delimit the moral and the political can lead.
Human sentiment, which fears the clouds of morality, will immediately
protest against such limitation. When under a logical plan, it seems
acceptable, the heart will refuse itself to be convinced all the same.

From this fact, such reflections give the impression that the litigious question
stays unresolved. It is the lot of the active statesman to be exposed to this
uncertain light which results. Without a doubt, his private life submits to
moral law. It is equally true that the political action of the little politicians
of our democracy, our mediocre parliamentarians, and party leaders should
submit to moral requirements. It doesnt have much of a political breadth to
have the right to be moral. But even if he is all the same, the little politician
cannot wrap himself in the tragedy of the statesman. It only shows that he is a
repugnant scoundrel.

The true statesman, accomplishing his great political missions has submitted
we have already admitted this his activities to a particular law. His acts,
some of which clash with ethical norms, have something strangely enigmatic.
Timidly, we note their illicit character, but at the same time we recognize
their objective necessity. The disquiet of our moral feeling doesnt prevent us
from accepting the inevitable, all the same, and it finds reflection in the
expression: politics breaks down character. In all cases, we will consider
the statesman as a function of destiny, as the bearer of great impersonal vital
forces, we are ready to renounce the scales of values concerning him. Given
that he impresses us as an unchained force of nature, we find it much easier
not to judge him from a moral point of view as, for evident reasons, we
would not judge natural phenomena, such as waterfalls or storms.

Some personalities like Frederick II have their individuality absorbed by the

service of the state. He retains nothing of his egoism to be point where he
becomes exclusively the organ of the state. Also, we no longer attempt to
judge their individual actions according to the scale of moral values. In the
measure where moral conscience concerns itself with such persons, it does it
in the fashion of considering, in full, the near complete effacement of himself
as a moral quality, not in the current sense but asthe greatest value.

Politics is exclusively subject to its intrinsic proper needs, to the particular

norms resulting from the state of things that concern it. Without a doubt, it
situates itself beyond morality. The difficulty in accepting this results from
the fact that politics provokes instinctive protests, born from the sentiment
that being human has its proper value. As a general rule, man is incapable of
reducing the sentiment of his proper value when it is considered as a product
of nature, such as with other natural phenomena. He is repulsed to be only the
material of the creative political force. He does not want to be a mean, as the
other things in nature are. His pride, his need to affirm himself revolt. But
when man requires to be placed before nature, by reason of his interior value,
he is already in the sphere of moral law. The man who fears being used,
exploited, and even destroyed by political events, as if he were prime
material, tries at all cost to divest himself from the dangerous possibilities of
politics. That is why he always leaves suspended the fact of knowing
if finally the political act must not justify itself before moral conscience. This
conscience that man opposes to politics, is the weapon he uses to guard for
his character a certain liberty, despite the order of submission and adaptation
that politics gives him. This position of defense retrenched in the individual
who wants to affirm, against the general requirements of politics, is the image
of tension between the moral imperative and the political act. For objective
reasons, this tension is permanent. The antagonism, pushed to the extreme,
incites the individual, conscious of his value, serves a moral motivation to
refuse, on principle, the right to existence of politics as the object of politics,
that is to say, the state, as well. The anarchists shoot with this consequence.
They aspire to a state to a state without authority, no order, only the sovereign
personality pushing to accede to free and unconditional self determination.

To repeat it another time, it is in the nature of politics to evaluate the terrain

of reality and not that of moral requirements. But the convictions of man,
which incite him to support the universal truth of ethical norms, is equally a
reality. Politics puts itself in an embarrassing situation, if it dares to enter into
conflict with ethical norms or if it obeys, in a provocative and non-
dissimulating fashion, its proper law, it is detained by ethical norms expressly
and forever. It would immediately arouse an instinctive aversion. In losing
the support of its own public, it would deprive itself of all the means to
succeed. Thus, it would become an evil and beastly politics, which is to
say, a politics against nature. For this reason, it submits to the law of as if.
It must do as if, that is to say, do in a way resembling acceptance of ethical
norms and does not hesitate to give proof of its good will. It is necessary that
political actions keep up appearances. They are inopportune when one can
suspect them of being immoral. They can be it, they will often be it, but never
should they give that appearance. Frequently they have no importance to the
moral plan. Then they have nothing inherent in their being to provoke a value
judgment. Do not let it appear as a tendency to violate ethical norms since
you spoke in their favor. The sole absence of such a tendency permits one to
believe that political action and morals rules will not be in disagreement. In a
certain measure, the fact that politics has the object of the public good assures
it a favorable prejudice. But when politics gives proof of moderation, a
favorable quality in this domain, it immediately has the impression that it is
on the way to virtue. When there is moderation, there is always a reflection of
moral radiance. Even moderation in bad actions throws a moral light on the
depths of corruption. Certainly, moderation in politics is only the expression
of a great lucidity: one is conscious that all exaggeration provokes destructive
and adverse reactions but this wisdom is interpreted as purity of intention.
This opportunity, carefully calculated and weighed is the most final, the
most subtle, but also the most profitable product of such wisdom it is
considered as a happy sign of moral aspiration. In this sense, the peace of
Nikolsburg that Bismarck would accord with Austria in 1866, was moderate,
opportune, and moral.

Men endowed with a very developed moral sense do not support the idea that
the gulf between politics and morality is impassable, that the reign of
morality stops where one attacks the rules of relations between peoples. They
do not deny this conflict. They equally admit that it cannot be surmounted so
soon. They accommodate this imperfection. But with perseverance, they
insist that the obligatory force of ethical norms must be firstly recognized at
least in principle for politics also. They are patient: politics should become
ethical over time. Willingly, they accept the need to wait awhile. That is the
attitude that Tltsch managed to show in his book Der Historismus und seine

To moralize politics is to say that behind politics there is a moral principle

with its requirements and recommendations. To contribute to the victory of
this principle is laudable. In an increasing measure, the direction of political
affairs must be confided in personalities whose morality cannot be put in
question. It should no longer be the activity of the state to exclusively affirm
and develop its power. Politics should be called to realize the idea of morality
equally in the life of the state. Men with the thirst for power and the passion
for success which, when present, take the head of state, should be replaced by
saints and ascetics. Nevertheless, all politics reposes on the existence and
the activity of impulses of power and domination that nature has endowed
creation with. It is only the ensemble of rules, the method helping to react to
relations between states. Moralist politics asserts that the structure of man
should change firstly, that the thirst for power must be firstly be extinguished,
that man should become something other than what he is today. Those who
feel an interior resistance against all of which is improbable, or, at least,
unpredictable, cannot take into consideration this possibility. He deals with
the existent state. But in this state, he discovers no precursor sign, no prior
condition to an evolution towards the moralization of politics which,
objectively, would be a contradiction.

In the grand hardship of force, moralist politics of the state would have no
example, it cannot excite and inflame. Faced with other states, it would be a
phenomenon evaluated by its practical consequences. To paralyze the will to
power, removing his good conscience is in the nature of moralist politics. If
it wants to remain faithful to itself, this politics should renounce serving
power. Historical experience teaches us this: power disintegrates itself when
it exposes itself to general contempt, when its existence and its utility
provoke disgust.
Thus, the weight of the state acting in a moral fashion diminishes in the
context of political events. Its ethical politics has no fluidity; looked on from
a certain distance, it should be considered as foolishness. It is interpreted and
exploited as the symptom of interior weakness. That which seems and is felt
as something courageous and grandiose, when it is the decision of a man
braving the world, presents itself as the political test of the degradation of the
living force of the people, as a perverse penchant for impotence, as the
impulse of an annihilating suicidal. Objectively, there is no relation between
politics and morality and this fact is especially most evident when a
heroically moral politics presents itself, as it is ultimately, a weak criminal
politics, foolishly contemptible or even demented. That as well is the point of
view of the effect by which the aspect it offers, in reasonable measure, proves
its moral character.

The result of an ethical politics has the same effect as the paralyzing
internal degradation of the state or the loss of power due to a unilateral
disarmament. The purity of intentions, the ideal character loses all its
luminosity, all charm, which penetrates the domain of politics. It appears as
the disarmed expression but it is all the same fatal to an infantile dilettantism,
to a naive eccentricity. Though it is profitable and effective that
politics seems to be moral faced with the innate moral sense of man, it is
harmful to him to be such, only the greatest will and the possession of power
gives it supremacy. Consequently, a false profession of faith in favor of the
moral idea is a very effective political means. The spirit of the people is
prideful, emotional, enthusiastic, and rendered docile. Foreign nations are
duped to the real intentions or even brought, to their detriment, to declare
confidence in this expression of will adorned with morality. Among political
means, the moral idea is a ceremonial cloak, an ornament which impresses
but doesnt reveal the true nature of those who wear it. What Machiavelli
said, in his famous 18th chapter of the Prince on the subject of sovereigns, is
valuable regarding the relation between politics and morality in general: A
good sovereign should appear clement, honest, obliging, sincere, and pious,
and he should be so. At the same time, he should be entirely able to do all on
the contrary in this fashion, if so required.

By reason of the mysterious force of its words, the profession of faith in favor
of moral ideas, even if it is not sincere, produces an effect on men. To recall
the words of Luther: they follow the mouth more than the fists. The word is
the matter of significance. On hearing it, the man takes it to live in his
conscience. With him who pronounces the word, he feels himself called to
penetrates into the communal sphere of feeling, of discovery, and of truth. He
feels entirely fulfilled by the objective significance of the word, he supposes
that others are equally, that he is the word and that he sincerely desired and
honestly gave life to the word by reason of his feeling. When he uses a word,
the moral man directly aims to feel it. For him, he is the exclusive means of
expressing its significance. He thinks what he said. His word is a confession,
it bares itself, a revelation. His sincerity resides in the fact that he feels
engaged by the feeling of the word when he pronounces it. Such sincerity is
the virtue he seeks to attain.

For the politician we repeat: it is only a question of those who feel a

vocation and not of the little politicians, such as those deputies in the
Reichstag and the heads of parties which, for all politicians their words
included is a means of obtaining to success.

The meaning of the word has little importance to him. He examines the effect
that he can produce by reason of this intrinsic meaning and of the receptivity
of men who hear the word. He pronounces it not because he endorsed its
meaning or because he would want to testify in its favor. He pronounces it to
incite men to adopt a certain comportment, which as we know from
experience, appears when the word in question arrives in his ears. Thus he
celebrates justice not because he decided to act in a just fashion but
because men have confidence in him and allow their director all the more
latitude because they believe that he practices the virtue of justice. The
cunning Talleyrand was conscious of this state of things, when he would
affirm, as a true politician, in a malicious and cynical fashion, that the words
serves to conceal the thought.

An ethical personality finds itself, without comprehending anything,

disconcerted before a formulation designed and entirely felt from the point of
view of politics. It experiences disgust, turning with anger: he
misunderstands the lies and the perfidy which are only pure political wisdom.

Germany produced a person of a certain rank, of a European reputation who,

in a strange fashion, bound by a moral passion pronounced a tendency that
influenced political events: it was Friedrich Frster. It not necessary to say
that it is a venal subject or that he is a villainous traitor to his people. He felt
a sublime vocation of wanting to submit German politics to the morality of
the Sermon on the Mountain. He would interpret the end of the war as
evidence striking the German people to incite them to return. With a severe
tenacity and an inflexible fierceness, he would address his exhortations to
penitence to the politicians of the German nation. He tried to persuade the
powers to purify German politics and transform it into a work of faith,
holiness, and mercy. However, his personality and his intentions had a typical
destiny he had to undergo. The fact that he enjoyed with such understanding
the art of politics, which requires the capable men and not the moralists to
make a profession of their faith, shortly made him slide into the role of Don
Quixote, a role which fit him well quite a bit. The inevitable result: the
deception of the disregarded prophet who overwhelmed his German people
with wild and violent accusations which would furnish the enemies of
Germany, France in particular, with easy pretexts and justifications for their
politics of force, thirsting for vengeance towards Germany. Thus, Frster
became the principle witness, voluntarily cited by voracious French
politicians. With that blissful knowledge, Poincar mentioned him in his
memoirs as a sincere German, the distinguished professor! The true role of
Frster was that of saluting German impotence with an overflowing
satisfaction, to preach the necessity of this period of impotence with a
pressing importunity and to stigmatize the spirit of the will to German
liberation as a malign attack against morality. But in that, he supports the
brutal supremacy of France. By dragging Germany before the tribunal of the
Sermon on the Mountain, he became, despite himself, by virtue of the laws of
politics which rule the world, a lamentable creature of French politics.
Today, he seems repugnant and oblivious because he resembles one who has
not made account of its contradictions. How could moral authority benefit a
then overwhelmed Germany which received no favorable prejudice when
France guarded its position by force with the aid of toxic gas, tanks, black or
mixed soldiers, and other vexing measures directed towards the part of the
German people who would be perfectly peaceful?

The condition in which Europe finds itself today has an origin in the cynical
abuse of the moral idea: its this abuse which characterizes it. Politics seized
morality to give itself good conscience and to justify a work done from hate,
the thirst for vengeance, and rapacity. The Diktat of Versailles is this terrible
work which permits the deprivation of sixty million people of their liberty
and honor. The Diktat of Versailles aims to annihilate. However, it must not
appear as an act of violence. The conquerors serve themselves with the
frivolous audacity of their supremacy to inscribe the events of this great war
of four years in the ranks of moral consideration. As such these triumphalists,
they think to profit in this way of envisioning things. They deformed and
extended the maxim might is right to the point of giving it a new sense, to
know:might makes moral. The defensive combat that the German people lead
with unequaled courage, was labeled as an odious crime against humanity.
The war was no longer recognized as an extension of politics by other means,
but presented as an unpardonable violation of moral law. Evidently, Germany
was the only victim of this new concept. The war was its fault and all
responsibility was imputed to it. The victors were very strong in imposing
upon public opinion their interpretation of events, that is to say: those who
defended themselves against an odious attack, those who had acted in a state
of legitimate defense, and which, at the end of the war, would be well
confirmed by morality: in this world, it should pay for its errors.

The war as a moral lesson, that was the most wicked, most hateful blow that
the victors had dealt to the defeated, who, in their impotence, should remain
passive and endure and support it all. There, the victors, when they came to
account with the vanquished, placed themselves under a moral plan. All that
was done to the vanquished, would be represented as reparation, expiation,
and punishment to satisfy the universal moral order. The conqueror, only
abused his supremacy, to play the role of the justice who redresses wrongs.
Up to the present, when states took up arms against each other, they then
reunited, when the conflict was finished, around a round table. Certainly, the
victor held the costs against the defeated, his positions in the negotiation was
weaker nevertheless they would negotiate. But now, after this perfidious
moralization of war, the vanquished because he is the vanquished is held
culpable. One does not negotiate with him, one judges him and pronounces a
sentence of culpability. Thus Versailles was the moral condemnation of
Germany. Now does one comprehend why in the peace treaty, it should
impute all the responsibility for the war to Germany? This allegation it levied
permitted it to transpose the war and its end, from the political terrain to the
moral terrain. The imputation of the entire responsibility for the war to
Germany isnt a simple clause of the Diktat: it is its heart, its spiritual basis,
even the principle. If one would abandon it, the Diktat would lose its
obligatory character, its moral and judicial validity. It would only remain an
accidental, arbitrary act without objective foundation. For this reason, the
struggle against the lies concerning the responsibility for the war is not
effectively a little naive game or caprice. It directly effects the vital nerve of
the Diktat, the spiritual reason that justifies its existence.

That is the secret of those who have the supremacy of force, they have to
seize even the conscience of those who, at the beginning, oppose them. The
supremacy of the Western powers was so overwhelming and intimidating to
Germany, even that faith in the right of resistance, the necessity of struggle
was shaken. The people finished by seeing its righteous cause with the eyes
of its most determined enemies. They would begin to say: never should this
war have taken place. The fact that it erupted is entirely our fault. We must
confess it and repent. The military collapse of 1918 was accompanied by a
political collapse. During which the conquerors would prove their greatest
mastery of politics, Germany would do penance. Eisner was only a typical
representative. His heart beat for noble France which had started a crusade
against Prussian and obstinate Germany. If, now, the German people
were capable of renouncing their Prussian and militarist mentality and
bowing, as morally refurbished, before Clemenceau, then they would be
accorded the grace of a just peace.

Since Prussianism was not totally exterminated in Berlin, they would

conclude the peace via Munich. If, for an hour, they would be left alone with
Clemenceau, he could have arranged everything. The eminent Social
Democrats, who during the war, had denied all fault of Germany, suddenly
anguished, made a confession of culpability. However, the man who will
express the most panicked politics and disorder of spirit which had seized the
German people in the face of this sudden and unexpected catastrophe was
Erzberger. As such the active leader, accomplished the flight of politics to
morality in the most unconscionable and deplorable fashion. We must all
confess, he said, and then we will be pardoned. He himself would confess
everything. But since the conquerors were not moralists but politicians they
werent going to pardon him and they used their confessions as a precious
political means to permit the success of a trick consisting of making
this terrifying peace seem just and merited.

In concluding these reflections, we can say that, on principle and by nature,

there is no bridge that can link politics to morality, the political action to the
ethical idea. Even in that, the deepest and hidden, even the most vague,
affinity cannot be detected, no affinity could exist despite their innumerable
divergences. The two spheres are so antithetical that they stayed closed on
themselves, finding each other foreign, in an inaccessibility without possible
comprehension. A vital interaction is unthinkable. They submitted to
completely different laws.
Objectively it is impossible to give them a common denominator. The moral
idea would be simply annihilated, if it recognized the validity and the scales
of political values. Politics would become apolitical, non-political and
would sincerely bow before the requirements of moral ideas. They are so
truly incompatible that no compromise is possible between them. Only the
fact that it bears the object of ethical norms is also that of political objects,
that is man, establishing a forced relation between the two, one very
embroiled and confused. Man, as such a moral being, is conscious of the
absolute character of morality, which permits him no exception. He equally
approves the inflexibility of moral requirement with respect to politics.
However, politics is the art of the possible and the mature exercise of
handling reality and the facts by recognizing their particularity and knowing
how to use them according to their nature. As such it doesnt always attempt
to have a reason, it is not greedy for prestige. It accepts the state of things as
they are. Publicly, it pays homage to morality and comports itself as if it
submitted to its law, as if the moral idea was its line of conduct. But
immediately, it avenges itself on morality, using it with the skill of a superior
player, to its own ends. Man can be seized by an idea; one wants to seem
omnipotent, very well! then the Bible says it, when one wants to pull the
wool over someones eye, he says work in the service of humanity, when
one wants to subjugate a foolish people, he says peace be with you when he
only wants to deal with it as a conquest by force! There is no intention which
cannot drape itself in in the clothing of moral requirement and, disguised as
such, presents itself as an appeal to the moral conscience of man. The moral
idea as instrument of politics: it is in effect the role that it must assume when
it comes in contact with politics. From the political point of view, the relation
between politics and morality is cold, sober, and objective; from the moral
point of view it is frivolous and cynical.

Given that there is not an objective relation between ethics and political
ideas, the realization of a veritable relation between the two becomes
impossible. It can only be fictitious. However, this fiction is favorable to the
two parties. The apparent homage that politics now pays to ethics, even
according its authority to the moral ideas. The forces of penetration,
determination, and spirit increase when the goals covered by politics address
themselves to men in the form of moral requirements. Draped in ethics, they
have the appearance of universal validity and the suggestive and persuasive
force of that which must be done. Thus the political objective often finds
effective, even peremptory corroboration in the moral sphere.

The strange specificity of legality is a typical and instructive case of

reinforcement and influence resulting from the participation of these ideas.
The system of judicial norms seizes instinctive or human actions and then
gives emphasis to their value. Acts are not judged according to their
motivations and their causes but uniquely by the relation with laws and
interdicts, which constitute a positive right. The fact that they respect or
infringe upon the laws in effect determines the judgment to which they will
be submitted. The intentions that are behind the actions are of little import,
only counting when they are before the law.

When they are contrary to the law, public opinion immediately opposes them
and they become suspect in their fair eyes. But when they want to observe a
norm, they are approved, even if after their motivations, of which they are
doubtful, are seen as unsavory. To escape a critical test, it suffices that they
respond, in appearance, to the requirements of the norm. This conformity
gives them weight, force which is recognized, assurance, justification, and
the feeling of being untouchable. When coups erupt, the party that has
legality, is always advantaged. Even if it is faint, corrupted, or loose, it will
find an appeal to the authority of the law. Thus when the adversary fights on
the terrain of the constitution, or defends itself there, the instigating group of
the coup must have a considerable numeric superiority or a real power for
victory to fall from the sky. Never does the force of legality reveal itself in a
more dazzling fashion than in these limit cases, in the cases where actions are
themselves contrary to the sense and letter of the law but keep an appearance
of legitimacy. If, in a civil war, a man is brutally put against the wall and
shot, public opinion will have difficulty accepting it, resenting it as an act of
violence, like an assassination. But when the summary procedure of a court
martial proceeds putting him to death, it would appear as the execution of a
judgment which, ultimately, was made by application of a norm, though to
some it is questionable. Now this act should be far less provocative and
outrageous. The fact that, in a certain measure, it made an appeal to a law,
then places this act in a larger context, giving it a more general sense, and, at
the same time, it ceases to be absurd, that is to say worrying arbitrariness.
Arbitrariness is a thing that cannot justify itself in any sense, by no superior
significance, no intrinsic or apparent necessity.

In the limit cases of this type, where the true nature of the act is not
sufficiently in accord with the contents of the norm before it is justified, have
the characteristics of this fictitious relation which exists, in an expanded
framework, between politics and ethics in general.
Such a fictitious relation exists, a fortiori and after the nature of things,
between politics and religion. The words: What use is it for man to win the
world, if he has lost his soul? enlighten the depths of religiosity. The destiny
of the individual soul, which is determined by his relation with God, is the
principal object of religious preoccupations. Even God became human,
suffered, and died, uniquely to deliver the soul from the consequences of its
sins. Religion is the way towards salvation of the soul. After it, divine
providence incites the individual to follow this way. Before God, all men are
equal. Our Father who art in heaven even counts the hairs on each head. The
feeling of significance for myself which, at the start, is one of the sources of
living religion, is exalted by religion, but under a more civilized form. Me,
I feel close to God.

As we have already tried to explain it, politics has no feeling for the
particular values and psychology of the individual. All on the contrary, it
accords very little value to the wealth of the individual, considering the
human person as easily replaceable, as a negligible quantity of this matter
that it shapes. It wants to conquer the entire world. It does not preoccupy
itself with the traumatized that could result. It is devoid of an organ to
perceive them. To declare religion is a private affair, corresponds very
much to the way of political considerations.

Yet, in the measure where it doesnt even treat religion as as private affair, but
insists on the submission of a Church recognized by all, which is the State
Church, it has not, by this fact, manifested its respect and high consideration
for religion. It only proved that resolute realism is not remote from any
means that could permit it to carry itself to victory. Man would be religious?
That he is! He he will not only be satisfied but will become more
manipulable. Certain reservations in respect to the constraints and pressures
that are exerted on politics will cease when man will note that even politics
doesnt hesitate to bow before spiritual values. As Machiavelli said it, it
should appear respectable towards God.

When the Church, administrator of the holy sacraments, does politics,

aspiring to temporal power and its extension, the difference between to be
and to appear probably manifests itself in the most acute fashion. Since, in
such case, the Church wants at all cost to achieve its projects, it must accept
the necessary means. In certain epochs, it even approved atrocities such as
those committed by the Inquisition. Its will to power, which aspires to a
domination without limits, crushed all opposition in terror and blood. The
popes became strategists and thus arose Alexander VI. Of this pope,
Machiavelli recounts: During all his life, he only deceived. No one will
posses as he did the art of deception. No one knew to confirm his promises
by more convincing oaths, and no one kept them less than him. The Church,
as such the administrator of religious ideology, had at its disposal an
inexhaustible treasure of brilliant pretexts and convincing arguments. The
religious ideas that it evoked to satisfy its thirst for power deployed their
suggestive force. That was greatly sufficient to prevent their believers from
returning to reason even in the face of terrible bursts of furor towards
ecclesiastical power. For the faithful, the actions committed by the Church
stayed religious when the curate affirmed God wills it. Furthermore, the
Church profited from the fact that religious sentiment easily transforms itself
into an exacerbated fanaticism and inflames an extreme passion. When,
thanks to religious ideas, it heated the souls of the people, the critic is
silent. Even the most atrocious act, designed and accomplished according to
the law of politics, receives a religious consecration and acquires a credibility
as a religious action. One pardons him of being absurd and inconceivable as
soon as he believes that he is founded on the decree of Providence that no
mortal can judge.

Certainly, as always, the politics of the State has equally profited from
religious excitation and the influence that religious ideas can exert on man.
The Iron Sides of Cromwell became near invincible when making battle in
the English Civil War in the name of the Supreme Being. When Luther
fulminated against the Church, which had taken a profane character, the
German princes voluntarily slipped into the role of thief of ecclesiastical
blessings, then acting on the order of God. But in their innermost being, they
had taken the decision long ago to commit this larceny. Machiavelli said on
this subject: Never has a man given exceptional laws to a people without
recourse to Supreme Authority, because otherwise they would not accept
them. A wise man can see the benefits and the positive consequences, but the
reasons for being are not so evident by their power to convince the others.
Intelligent men appeal to God to get around this difficulty.

Calvinism, which would imprint its image on an entire epoch, is a typical

example. It shows how religion is put into the service of the profane world
and how it is possible to even sanctify exterior and material success with the
aid of the specific and transcendent contents of religion. Success is a sign of
the blessing of God upon the work. Under this angle, politics has an easy
game to justify itself equally before all the metaphysical needs of man. Thus
by obtaining results it realizes the sense of the world and shows that divine
providence has dictated it. Its success confirms that. Who, in these
circumstances, can reproach the means even the most daring and
misleading which serve to assure his success?
In the present case, politics is undeniably considered from the point of
religion. However, one feels that this point of view does not correspond to the
nature of politics. It enlightens political evil and at the same time is in
contradiction with its proper religious character. The discord between the
political object and religious enlightenment is evident.

Yet, there are cases where this discord practically disappears. It disappears
when a grand statesman is at work. We have already noted that his relation to
morality is particular and exceptional. By acting with the function of
responsibility for his people, he reduces to silence the requirements of ethics
and annuls, on certain occasions, the scales of moral values. His relation to
the religious idea is sometimes incomparably very positive. The great
statesmen are always considered as instruments of destiny. They feel that
unsearchable forces operate in them. They believe that mysterious powers
push them towards unknown destinations. They see themselves as blind
creatures of a superior will dominating all things here below. Their sentiment
of dependence and of being conducted is a veritable religious phenomenon.
Political action o how shocking in particular cases unfolds itself in a
religious atmosphere. With an unswerving confidence, the statesman
knows that he is the servitor of God. He ignores the doubts and lives with
the certainty of being in accord with God. The religiosity of Bismarck was of
that type of naive and childlike piety. The ensemble of acts is presented as a
mission given by God. Insufficiency, the doubting character must be
considered in the same manner as the imperfection of that world that God
himself created.

But equally in this case, politics in not the realization of the religious idea
whose reign is not of this world. Politics always follows its proper law. In the
present case, the sole participation consists of the fact that politics evolves in
an atmosphere and imagination of religious ideas. But despite all, politics
and religion remain foreign to one another and objectively incompatible.
There divergence is irremediable, even if in the conscience of the statesman it
appears to be suppressed. The personal conviction made by the master does
not suffice to put it there.

He must very well admit it: characters so different and incompatible as there
are between them, have shown, from all evidence, that religious ideas are not
political ideas. Between religion and the tendencies of political reality, there
are no elective affinities. It is a fact to which one must resign himself. In
these conditions, one comprehends the weakness of this type of idea before
political events. But that is not to say that the question of knowing to what
measure ideas influence politics is resolved. Are there not, in a particular and
very precise sense, political ideas, which are ideas that, according to their
origins, their orientation, and their contents, live and evolve in the world of

These ideas, could they not be the forces that guide, the examples that
inflame, the models of political reality? History shows us the explosive and
elementary force that is inherent in these ideas, they represent the first cause
and veritable motor of evolution. We know these beacons: liberty and
equality, progress and civilization, international peace and rapprochement
between peoples, the right of self-determination and the sovereignty of the
people, the war to end war, security and natural borders. It means that ideas
announce of the new currents of the epoch.
But one can pose the question of knowing whether ideas create this current or
if they only reflect it, if they are only images anticipating the objectives of
the current.

Are they primitive forces producing effects or states, forms of conscience in

which these currents will attain a figurative readability, an objective clarity of
their proper contents? The hot breath, the ardor of ideas emanates from them
or are they only the reflection of an irresistible power that resides in the
currents of the epoch?

When do we speak of vague or chimeric ideas? We do it when they have no

place in reality. In this case, the idea cannot convince: it is only a game of the
spirit, that is combined amongst many others. When does it incarnate,
acquiring this suggestive force, the persuasive power, this mysterious
seduction, and even this success, this brightness that illuminates from far
away and points to it, in short, all the grand fascinating qualities that
characterize living ideas marking an epoch? That happens when the real
conditions begin to change, in the fashion of preparing the adjustment of
tensions by a discharge or explosion, when these elements transform

These processes are the causes that reside in the same reality: social
dislocations, which are the consequences of technological revolutions, new
economic structures, and displacements of political power such that the need
to change is provoked in man. A traditional state is determined by a stable
social, economic, and political order which relies on customs and right. But
the essential conditions of this order no longer exist. The orientation of life,
which formerly established this order, has changed. The scales of value are
no longer the same. The order no longer corresponds to the new criteria. The
feeling of life which colored it has changed, no longer recognizing it as the
form of expression that it could be. This order is then considered as a shell,
resented as a prison. Thus, it should cause numerous unsustainable frictions.
These provoke feelings of refusal and cravings for destruction. These
pressures produce contrary pressures and give birth to a will to overthrow the
order. Its defense is founded on the inertia of all that lasts, but the source of
the force which renews itself no longer springs forth. Consequently, the
influx of demanding new currents opens bit by bit the prejudices of the
established order. It becomes crumbly, crumbling until one day, it will
collapse or will be demolished by violence and tumult.

All these processes, which unfold in reality, are, quite surely, anticipated by
the conscience. That which exists is firstly defeated by the spirit before
collapsing in reality. The principle that gives it its sense, is denied, its value
contested. The political idea is the anticipation of conscience of the real
abolition of the existing state. In taking form, it becomes at the same time a
norm for a new interpretation. It is equally the premonition of a different
explanation of things which then struggles to be recognized. As the product
of the mobile spirit, it proceeds far from the slow evolution of reality. As it is
always in advance, one has the impression that it causes reality, as if it were
the veritable locomotive force of history. But in fact, the political idea is only
the graphic image of that which happens in things, of what happens to them.
It is not a primitive image, existing since eternity and which, endowed with a
mysterious force of attraction, pushes reality, in the course of centuries, to
adapt itself to it. Certainly, as the graphic formula, it directs man, it is why
flags float on the fields of battle. It gives explanations, helps to clearly see the
situation and poses as a man, who can only see through what it means, before
the task of having to decide by the function of the conditions of nature and
the peculiarities of his being. It the sign which, by the fact of its visible,
present being, provokes decisions. That is where its real significance resides.
Nevertheless, the powers that it puts in ranks, are not the cause of this little
flag, which before us, floats in the breeze. The motions are found in
themselves. The unfolding of events is exclusively determined by the state of
things, by the tensions inherent in reality.

The force of an idea and its obligatory character, which gives to man the
conviction of having to serve it, announces that the state of things is ripe
for change. It equally permits the knowledge of what extent the existing order
is already weakened, near capitulation, and no longer stable and durable
enough to convince itself, by its sole existence, of its unwavering strength.

Political ideas anticipate, explain, and clarify the state of things, but they
equally mask them. Certainly, they are the reflection of an objective
evolution, and in particular, they indicate the direction of existing
movements, but they are modeled, in great part, by the force of imagination
and the passion of human desires. Too easily, one takes them for original
images, faithful and just, of future reality. By viewing them, one believes to
perceive directly what reality will be. Thus when reality uniquely evolves
according to the laws that are inherent to it, one falls into the error of
believing that it feels engaged by an original image and that its veritable
motive force is the desire to conform itself to this image. It may even be that
the idea idea becomes an obstacle that prevents and complicates the
understanding of reality. Then, it is no longer the reflection of facts, it is only
the dressing covering reality, posing itself as before it. It is only an image
behind which is hidden a very different existence.
That is the characteristic of the idea: to be the dressing that covers and hides,
but which, at the same time, is convincing. And it is that as experience
teaches us which gives it a considerable importance in the domain of
politics. The indispensable conditions for the success of a political enterprise
require that it is born aloft by ideas, that is appears as the realization of an

The order of feudal society regularly imposed fetters on the productive forces
which, beginning in the 16th century, began to develop on a grand scale. The
nascent urban bourgeoisie felt themselves embarrassed and oppressed in their
work. The traditional authority of public powers was hostile to their vital
interests. Undermining and reversing this authority became the mission of
bourgeois society. It took centuries to accomplish this task. The work of
decomposition and demolition which was the golden hunt for the bourgeoisie,
should open unlimited spaces, lured by their purely destructive character,
since it would unfold in the nimbus of the idea of liberty.
Spontaneously, liberty was considered as one of the greatest values of
humanity. It presages that state in which man expects that it will suppress all
that crushes and afflicts him, all that overwhelms him. The bourgeoisie would
want to remove the corporations and diverse guilds. They were condemned
because they believed that with the abolition of these institutions, limiting the
thirst for profit, the entirety of humanity would be liberated from all internal
and external pressures. The movement of bourgeois emancipation was
considered purely and simply as the war for the liberation of all humanity.
Thus, they found allies everywhere where men held the hope and ardent
desire to find the roots of their misery and constraint. But when the victory of
the bourgeoisie, under the flag of liberty, was obtained, what did they
discover? They learned that their goal had procured for a thin layer of the
population the right to exploit, shamelessly and unceremoniously, millions of
others. Certainly, the idea of liberty was expressed, in a pertinent fashion, the
general direction of events, the progressive destruction of bonds, but finally it
no longer was able to keep its explosive force: that is to say a certain change
towards a better future and a more elevated form of human existence.

In a similar manner, one can unmask all political ideas. Thus, we see that
the last idea of freedom of the seas hid in itself the Anglo-Saxon ambition
to dominate the oceans, the last idea of Pan-Europa concealed the
hegemonic will of France towards Europe. The pacifist idea is the sparkling
veil which clothes the sated property instincts whether those be English or
Dutch fearing for their colonies. But in certain cases, poor and weak people
can equally turn towards this idea. It must serve as a narcoticthat they
strongly administer. It should coax the strong into giving respite to the weak,
then they can discretely, become stronger. In no case, did the Hague Peace
Conferences, suggested by the Tsar, give birth to true pacifist
sentiments. Muraviev,the Russian statesman, had pressed for these
conferences. After, the Russo-Japanese war, they should procure a time of
tranquility in Russia, which manifested so energetically its love of peace.
They thought to utilize this calm to put in order Russian finances and
reorganize and reinforce the Russian army. The idea of the right of people to
rule themselves was a weapon of Czech, Polish, and Yugoslav nationalism.
The usage by French politics of the idea of security was a veritable
masterwork of extravagant audacity. In a frivolous fashion and by playing
everything, they dared the worst of those who could demand good faith from
men. Shamelessly, they advanced themselves over the last limit, where
impudence was not only in itself a revolting provocation but where
they must inevitably be resented as such. French politics asserted the idea of
security to make the entire world understand that France is never more
peaceful than when it constructs fortresses, uses tanks, makes military
aircraft, and stockpiles toxic gas bombs. The idea of progress took, during the
war, the form of a recommendation that was advantageous, useful, and
profitable for the enemies of Germany. The idealized contents of the Fourteen
Points of Wilson should incite the German people to renounce their cause and
to deliver all their confidence to the generosity and nobility of heart of their

It is the same in cases where the root of an idea is the direct negation of the
essence and tendencies of reality with which it is put into relation. The idea is
not the reflection or model anticipating the perfection of existence, but on the
contrary, its antipodes. It attracts the glance and general attention. Cannot
reality discretely evolve in an opposite sense? By imposing itself as a
credible interpretation of reality, it is in truth the denialof reality. It does not
reveal the base, it abuses. Since it does not even find confirmation in reality
and that it constantly courts the danger of being unveiled and refuted as
trickery, it must be argued with a screaming rudeness. The appeal that is
addressed to humanity must be especially pretentious that must be affirmed
desperately against the uncontrollable impression of reality, arising from the
weight of things. It especially cries strongly that the task that it lowers itself
to accomplish is dirty. Its impertinence becomes insupportable in the measure
in which it wants to distort judgment.

Disarmament is part of a type of idea which serves as a screen that

dissimulates the evolution of reality. The evolution must do without the visual
field to which man pays attention.
The superhuman efforts, that the European peoples had made during the war,
their need to remain soldiers during the four years, provoked a reversal of
public opinion. The people were tired of bearing arms, of being in uniform.
They would become pacifists because of militarist force feeding. They were
pacifists of fatigue. In the victorious peoples vibrated the memory of the
goal that they once had enthusiasm for:crush Germany to finish definitively
with the war. Germany was vanquished they could and should uproot its
warmongering. The leaders made a profession of faith in favor
of disarmament, it was a promise in this sense. The people believed in this
promise, taking it at face value, and abstained from verifying if it held.
However, the governments held in perpetuity the new distribution of power.
Under the pretext of disarmament, the would proceed with adaptations,
modifications, restructurings, and perfecting of their armies. To express it
with the words of Machiavelli: they would speak of peace and prepare for

Political ideas are always founded on the currents of the epoch: the ardent
desires of peoples, the wish to change, the hostility in regards to the
authorities, the nascent sentiments of national pride, the self confidence of
peoples, the forms of influence of a power in place, that, as for example,
Americanism, make felt their vitality, their robustness, and their endurance.
Sometimes, the idea reflects the characteristics of the phenomenon of the
epoch. It is the formula that allows to take the conscience and which, thereby,
becomes an effective propaganda. In another case, it is an idealmoving away
from the forms of daily life. Politics then seizes the constraint, to the
requirement which emanates by pretending to take dispositions to appropriate
the same ideal. Sometimes, it is a grandiose protest against the status quo.
But behind this pathos, it only conceals a malignant egoism whose hour
comes when the traditional state and its right to exist are put in question
under the weight of protest. But in no case, it is not in the nature of politics to
realize this political ideas, regardless of the type to which they belong. Also,
even with moral and religious ideas, they are only means of politics. It is only
because they turn directly around these phenomena, objects, modifications,
and structures, ascensions and declines, which together with their interactions
constitute the contents of politics, which are political ideas. But they are
not it, because politics aspires to consciously transport these ideas from the
sphere of their spiritual existence into a living reality.

The problem posed by the relation between politics and ideas, in the sense of
a symbolic concept, is more simple and transparent. This idea reunites the
characteristics with facts based on experience. The idea of the German
state gathers the essential elements of the German state; given historically,
living through the centuries. The idea of the art of war is evidently shown
as all that is common in war from the past to the present, all that is regular
and all that follows the same laws, a bit like what Clausewitz magisterially
did in his remarkable book Vom Krieg (On War). Even if there are certain
idealistic elements, various idealized components are mixed into the abstract
notion, which was created from experience, however the fact remains that it
better serves the knowledge of political facts. Sometimes, politics grabs these
ideas to clarify itself, to arrive at a frank comprehension of its ways and
methods. Certainly, such introspection reveals that one is in accord with the
nature of things, given a certain force and a certain courage: taking into
account its convictions with more firmness and assurance.

We have seen that the idea is not the motor of the political process. One time,
it will be signboard and a war cry, another time, a pretext and ruse, but never
is it the primal force that causes and produces true effects. But
the political force, coming directly from events, what is it in reality?

It is the will to existence and the power of the state through which the will of
the people manifests itself. This will to affirm and to extend its power is
something elementary. It is a fundamental fact which bears its right and law.
To win, to be worthy, is the sole commandment they obey. Certainly, this
commandment does not come from the outside. It is the formula that
summarizes the need and the force which, per se, characterizes nature. It is
the same that Machiavelli means, when he writes: When it is for the nation,
to be or not to be, he must not reflect if this or that is just or unjust, humane
or cruel, laudable or shameful. But not unceremoniously, it must take
measures to save its life and preserve its liberty. The English then
formulated it more concisely: My country, right or wrong. Here it is to
make the will to existence of the state which orders and imposes norms,
which is an absolute and sovereign fashion, uniquely by the function of itself,
and which, imperiously, brings back all to itself.

Certainly, there is a variability in the force of this will to life. Sometimes, it is

fiery and irascible, suddenly inflamed, all devouring, such an immense fire;
sometimes it is tenacious, unswerving, flowing in large waves, such a
powerful stream; and in another case, it lacks assurance, is weak, without
endurance, as if it drew from meager sources. The more this will to life
unfolds, strongly, untamed, with a tranquil assurance, this named political
instinct is more developed and infallible. It is a wisdom of full equilibrium,
coming from unfathomable depth, a wisdom that never tricks itself and
which, in all circumstances, finds that which needs to be done. It is equally
that foolproof tact that always says what is opportune. The sense of political
reality: it is seen as incorruptible, the sure hand that seizes without hesitating,
the feeling that can never be tricked by that which is useful, this developed
flair for that which is necessary, and at the same time, possible. Its fierce
sanguine character, its proud certainty, resting on solid bases, its sustained
attention., its positivism, and its elevated degree of interior concentration
which inspires confidence; all of those are only phenomena, manifestations of
health and of force of the national and state will. Its health and boundless
force gives a particular tint to the relation between ideas and politics, whose
basic elements are seen everywhere. It is this particular tint that distinguishes
and differentiates between peoples. The French, the Americans, the English,
the Germans live this relation differently, with a variable and divergent

The will to power of France is a very particular vivacity. It throws sparks,

blazes, but it does not lose itself in smoke: constantly, it renews itself from its
proper resources. It shines in its mobility and irritability. It sparkles, naive
and carefree. It is in its nature to want to be beautiful and fascinating. It wants
to dazzle, enchant, and provoke enthusiasm. The overhead veil which covers
it, the sparkling charm that is its set, all of which is offered by the idea. It
knows many ideas, useful and well advised, maybe becoming. It serves as the
plume of a peacock, as a perfume, as flattering lighting. It is a coquette, it
decorates itself. It knows the art of charming with the idea, of seduction, of
how to turn heads. However, this impassioned breath, this persuasive
vitality, permitting the idea to to convince, does not emanate from itself. The
artifices of the idea are nothing other than the manifestations of
the overflowing energies of the will to power and to life of France. It is that
which radiates across the idea which is only a transparency. However, we
have ignored this fact; we do not know that the idea serves to hide the will to
power, it is confounded with it, and it is that which gives it its enormous
effect. The idea gives flexibility to the will, while the will fills the idea with
force and ardor. This fusion is so complete that in effect, certain political
ideas are considered as typically French. We can immediately count them,
when we taste attentively the flavor of the ideas liberty, fraternity, equality
and Pan-Europa. There were they have installed themselves, they in no
case reinforce their purely spiritual content, they reinforce the political
domination exercised by the French nation. In his work Die Westliche
Grenzfrage, Moltke said with acidity of the French: Four times they have
changed their principles, and with each change, we have lost territory. The
receptivity towards the ideas of the Revolution, outside of France, was only a
fashion of expressing that we were ready to submit to the iron hand of
Napoleon the same as today with the profession of faith in favor of the idea
of Pan-Europa, it is the manifest avowal of approving French hegemony in
Europe, and even supporting it.

The English will to life and power is without parallel, given its firmness and
brutality with which it argues. Yet, it is not like the French will, easily
inflamed and bubbly, nervous and mobile. The cold determination, the
crushing violence with which it imposes itself, are like the pressure of a
glacier that advances with disturbing slowness, but can never stop. It is too
heavy to be capable of maintaining a charming, genial, and elegant relation
with the idea as the French will to power can do. This agile displacement that
predisposes the French will to power, by its structure, to a very large intimacy
with the idea, fails in the English manner. The British will to power wants to
win terrain. It is slow and measured in its preparations. But ineluctably, as its
destiny, it seizes these things, when the moment comes. It is like a force of
nature, and it feels itself as such. It has almost no need to soothe its
conscience , to present a superior justification, to serve as an adornment or a
pleasant disguise. The wisdom, the order, and the force, do they not
announce you the Lord, the Lord of the Earth? When we have a force of
nature who has nothing but success, is there not something divine behind it?
Is it not simply the revelation of the divine will? God has decided against the
Dutch, said Cromwell, once the envoy to the Netherlands. He only has to
rally to the power of the British Republic, to extend with it the Kingdom of
God, and to liberate the people from their tyrant.

Here the problem and the distinction are nearly erased. The power which we
identify and we put put without ceasing to the test is experienced in a fashion
so intense that we finally believe it to be an instrument of God. It is
magnificent and that suffices. Who, in these conditions, could then have
scruples in regards to the requirements of moral and political ideas? When
one is elected by God, to be in accord with all these ideas demanding respect,
is to be near to Him, even if at first it is not evident. With a little patience, the
truth will emerge. Thus, we remain convinced to serve the ideas, even if an
aspect of the actions disavows the meaning of the idea. This contradiction
does not inspire concern, it is only superficial who could doubt? One is
always just when one is the organ of God. Do we understand why the English
with their primitive piety cannot simply tolerate when the existence of God is
put into question? Faith in God is an essential component of English politics.
This faith is the tribute that permits them to satisfy all their ideas. In these
conditions, irreligion must not only be decried as shocking, but also a treason
towards the nation and the country.

The American is Anglo-Saxon. The American point of view resembles the

English point of view. But all that the English mentality presents under a
reserved, constructed, cultivated, and disciplined form is, in the American
translation, rendered coarse, deformed to become unwieldy, crude, and
excessive. The American equally believes himself chosen and elected by
God. This sublime sentiment does not suffice yet to decide, in its quality of
acting, to respect its forms and keep face. While the French put an artists
care into creating the mystification that consists of making believe in the
accord between the idea and the will to power, while the English try, after all
sincerely, this contradiction which exists, the American doesnt even
experience the need to orient the manifestations of its will to power would
only in appearance according to ideas that we pretend to respect,
because everyone does it. The American ignites for the idea. The eruption of
enthusiasm is the sacrifices he makes for it. He is not entitled to demand
more and to influence by its daily behavior? America prepares treaties
condemning war and simultaneously, it deprives Nicaragua of its
independence and prepares to violate Mexico. It wants to exploit a
defenseless people by circulating throughout the world the Fourteen Points
testifying as a grand nobility. With a manner so much more superficial and
commercial than in the case of the English, it considers itself as released from
ideas through the exercises of holy devotion. He gives to God that which is
Gods by sanctifying Sunday, and God cannot require more of him. Certainly,
as such an honest trader, he attempts to execute the contract. He would
consider himself as a crook towards God, if he would permit that impiety in
the domain of the Lord eventually by the service of Darwinism. His
tribunals protecting God from the conclusions of the doctrine of Darwin. The
idea intoxicates him, but he totally excludes that one day it can have a real
influence on him.
What a difference in relation to the German! This one is the idealist among
the peoples. Exalted, he raises his face to the idea, his eyes fix there, his
mouth open to the celestial harmony. Dazzled by this light, it usually happens
that he loses contact with reality. In the idea, he recognizes the motive force
of history. He truly takes politics for a realization of ideas, and thinks it
must be done in the fashion that all will to power is hemmed in.

The receptivity of the Germans to the artifices of the idea has facilitated the
political intentions of Wilson: to make the German people doubt themselves
and the soundness of their proper cause.

However, the question poses itself, of knowing if the German people truly
embody a more evolved species because it is more accessible to the charm of
the idea, that it submits itself more easily when ideas enter into play and that
it supposes, with complacency, that it is really and exclusively the sense and
the content of ideas. Is a people that is closer to ideas, more ideal, that is to
say, in the current sense: more perfect, because events invoke idealized
motifs that, for them, already prove the force of ideas? If a people abhors, as
a sin against the Holy Spirit, doubting a profession of faith in favor of an
idea, if it sees a criminal enterprise in the fact assembled around an idea,
without that being the unique reason of the assembly, if it is inclined, when
faced with the purity and sublimity of an idea, to genuflect, to venerate it, and
to be at its service, does that testify to the greatest distinction, the most
elevated rank?

Even if that seems to be the case, in truth, all of that does not speak in favor
of a greater nobility and a greater existential value. The idea seduces and
occupies the field of view, because we have a short view and do not see in to
the heart of things, because the feeling of reality is not very acute and we do
not perceive or perceive in an incomplete fashion that which is. The
profound respect the Germans have for the idea is the symptom of a
weakening disposition of the instinct to power and a diminution of the will to
life, placed in their character. To be taken by the ideas means that we
lack solidity.

The will to life and power of the Germans is very reserved, more inhibited
than all the other peoples. It doesnt have this ardor that permits them to leap
over obstacles. It doesnt know to simply draw from the wealth of its
existence the courage that would authorize it for all that it would want to
undertake. It doesnt have a direction, towards which it feels itself pushed,
irresistibly, with an impetuous and unswerving fierceness, not having
direction, is that not exactly its weakness? The history of Germany is marked
by this lack of vitality and of will to power. The particularity, this isolation,
this sentiment of well being in the little states, expresses that a people is
running out of breath. The national spirit does not attract and does not
recover its sources. The plastic, organizational, force, that nourishes itself and
eliminates that that which is harmful to it, that heals the wounds and
constructs all, this force is not creative enough for it to be capable of
engendering something that is living and solid, formed from the center,
coherent, something that would be an accomplishment given to the world.
Thus neither a strong state, nor a true sentiment of national value can
develop. A profound dissatisfaction with itself and its proper imperfection
would gnaw without cease the depths of the conscience. It would manifest
itself in the exaggerated estimation of all that comes from elsewhere, and in
this attitude of wanting to be righteous, which, after all, is nothing but
the expression of a feeling of hidden inferiority. We could try to take a
distance from the Germanism we have suffered because we are entirely
unsatisfied. In certain epochs, the German, encountering a foreigner, hid his
nationality. Certain branches of the people hoped to become nobler and
separate from the mother country. Thus were born the Netherlands and
Switzerland. In his work Die Westliche Grenzfrage, Moltke said: In this
fashion all feeling for the German nationality died in the Swiss, who, after
all, are Germans. In the same fashion Alsacebecome foreign to the Reich.
We do not bear Germanism in our heart, such a secret flame. For this reason,
there is no Germany Irredenta. That they are placed under German, French,
Belgian, Czech, Italian, or Polish sovereignty is of little import to the

To face this weakness in the vital force of the people, Bismarck believed it
necessary to maintain the German dynasties. Thus he said in Gedanken und
Erinnerungen: If the dynasties were suddenly abolished, it would
improbable that a national feeling could reunite all the Germans in the
functions of European politics and under the plan of international rights. This
seems excluded, even under the form of confederated Hanseatic cities or
burgs of the Reich. The Germans would become the prey of better structured
peoples, if they lost this bond that resides in the conscience of the nobility,
the common feeling of all the princes. In Germany, the ethnic character
marked the most by history is certainly the Prussian character. Yet, no one
can respond with certitude to the question of knowing if the state union of
Prussia could maintain itself without the Hohenzollern dynasty and their right
holders. The doubts that Bismarck nursed on the subject of national feeling,
are not separated from the existence of the actual German Republic. The
aggravation of internal antagonism of parties and social classes, the
impetuous spirits of particularism that do not cease to manifest the forces of
disintegration, which we do not know if, supported by the functions of
European politics, they prepare the ruin gradual or sudden of the Reich.

The weakness of the national will to life and power, the lack of popular
vitality is a fundamental fact in the German existence. It manifests itself
everywhere: in the general attitude, in the goal that we are fixed, in the choice
of means, in the force of the blows we suffer, in the determination to assert
itself. Necessity is not the law, said Bethmann Hollweg, when he formally
recognized the injustice committed towards Belgium that we must repair.
He stood before the Reichstag as someone caught in the act and had nothing
of this insouciance proper to a man who feels the measure of things.

Finally we only have the courage of which we are capable, when we have the
force. We feel little confidence and we have bad conscience when we fix
upon a goal above our means. But, at the same time, we suffer from the need
to accommodate this state of things, and we try to tranquilize ourselves by
making a necessity of virtue. We seem to impose on ourselves limits on
principle and for a noble idea, and we have committed the strongest wrong,
using force, blaming ourselves, accusing ourselves of an infraction of sacred

It is true that to highlight it in a fashion so vindictive only has the effect of

making the idea become universally recognized as a real fact. In this case
only, there is a probability that the action will be directed by the idea and not
by I cannot stand it and by impotence. Thus, the weak have the need to
affirm the reality of the idea. It must be done with ardor and zeal in the
illusion that faith levels mountains to be able to persuade the strongest to
submit, willingly, to the idea as a reality that imposes limits. It is in this sense
that we must understand the politics of ideas of Stresemann: his pacifism
is a declaration of desired impotence. It is founded on the hope the last
that the other peoples, equally, could be persuaded to consider powerlessness
as a desirable state. If power was a right, those who did not have have it or
wouldnt be represented by it, would have large difficulties. His assurance
and his self aggrandizing confidence, that he permitted himself to believe in
and that he could make the others believe that the idea is a determining
force of reality. At this moment, the relations are reversed: the right would
become power. The purity of the point of view of rights, he declared, gives
very strong impulses for its power to break natural and military power, not
ennobled by right. The fact that all the following experiences contradict it is
without importance. Here is the novelty: that which had yet to occur became
an event.One is a partisan of progress, of the future. Today, the eternally
backward looking can still triumph, tomorrow, their last hour will sound. One
is called to the mission of history to battle for the victory of the idea against
blind power. This vocation fills the heart with pride. Despite all its weakness,
being able to feel strongly is stimulating.

Yet, to give to the world the certainty that the politics of ideas is not a mere
nicety, but a true application, it is necessary to pay the price. To prove the
existence of a new spirit and of a progressiveness dignified by being its
imitation, it is necessary, for example, to recognize Versailles, willingly, to
voluntarily renounce Alsace, to manifestthe will to satisfy all the creditors, to
show respect regarding existing treaties, and to appease all the beneficiaries
of the German debacle. Recompense would come quickly. Who would not
follow with enthusiasm?
In an essay, entitled The Foreign Policy of Germany, Stresemann said on this
subject: Consequently, to Geneva, Germany is not the spokesman of a
group; it represents an idea. It means, in this case, to further develop the
League of Nations, thanks to very close and positive collaboration, to give
that which it had promised its foundation, that the peoples have been waiting
for, that is to say: an effective organization to amicably regulate international
differences, to consolidate the peace together and to respect international
rights. This German minister, servant of the idea of the League of Nations, is
a unique phenomenon. All the other statesmen who came to Geneva with the
sole goal to the defend the interests of their people. Bismarck, who knew how
much this particularity would profoundly deracinate the German people,
anticipated the invention of the foreign policy of Stresemann writing: The
others can expect of us political actions based on compliance to or inspired
by a sentiment of universal justice, but refuse to reciprocate with us.

It is true that Mister von Gerlach, equally the spokesman of an idea, critiqued
it by reproaching it, that its politics had neither head nor tail, lacking
principles and objectives. German politics is not the breath of a strong will
to national power, traversing the centuries. It then searches for some
compensation in heads or tails, principles and objectives that are in ideas.

It is the idea of a desired impotence, the idea of pacifism which penetrated

into the depths of the German soul., based on the consideration that the will
to power will disappear in the measure that international treaties are
concluded. This consideration reveals not only that the Germans no longer
had power but that they even lacked the most elementary will to power. This
idea is the charm that cradles the man weary and incapable of the happy
illusion distinguished by a particular force which, though unusual, is all the
same a quality.

Humanism, cosmopolitanism, and its abject variation, internationalism are

ideas that express in a sense, maybe not too general, the desire to strip
oneself, being that one doesnt bear to look in the face the unvoiced feeling of
constitutional insufficiency. The German is not obsessed by his Germanicism,
it is only a sentiment of his heart that manifests sometimes timidly,
sometimes with a little more vigor. In his encounter with the foreigner,
possessing a robust spring of nationalism ready to impose, the German
experiences difficulties affirming himself. He must make an effort on himself
in order not to succumb, to not get overthrown by the others, very different,
who come from everywhere. He has already suffered such defeats. How it is
difficult to be German! Nowhere can we push with clean hands. Germanicism
is not an easy thing, it must be forced there. But is it necessary to truly be
German? Does it not suffice that one is aman? That would be so simple! To
want to only be a man; that sounds well and reminds us that our horizons
could be larger, more open. And, in comparison, perseverance in ethnic
particularity, does it not have a stuffy and narrow odor? We can strip
ourselves of Germanicism because we have never delivered ourselves
entirely to it. Since we do not possess it very much, we throw off that which
we had. And exactly, this misery is felt as the greatest wealth. We are a
veritable Hans in Luck who was astonished because he could rid himself
even of his grindstone. Hans in Luck is in effect a German fairy tale and
not only a fairy tale.

The idea of cosmopolitanism is the translation of humanism in the political

world. In the same fashion that humanism transports the individual
beyond his national cadre, cosmopolitanism removes from all people the
shackles of the thirst for power, of the will to affirm themselves and from
their perseverance in their pitiable limited particularity. The proper
nationalism strikes vitality more than the thirst for power, more aggressive to
the mobilization of other nations. They do not resist them, they cannot rival
them, they feel repulsed, and they report that they lack the vitality and
combativeness, meaning that it is not spoiled by nature. How in such
conditions, could it justify its need to be recognized? This is done by labeling
the unalterable character, insouciant and proudly inflexible, of the will to
national and state power as something that should not be, as something
suspected of evil. The will to power must be brought to doubt itself, so that its
joyous assurance is shaken. It is necessary that it should feel culpable, thus, it
will immediately lose the effect that we so fear. We ridicule it as passe, like
the rest of barbarism. In todays epoch the best, we affirm only a people
who has succeeded in smothering it, has value. No longer should a nation
search for its proper interest. It must taking into account the needs of all the
people, that is to say, the other peoples. The duty of the German statesman no
longer has anything to do with German politics. He would poorly
comprehend the law of the present, if he did not abstain. Henceforth, he must
make a European politics.

How many times have we remarked the German maybe affected the reproach
of being nationalistic? In Germany, to be nationalist is considered shameful,
as shameful as pocketing silver spoons that belong to others. The German
disdains nationalism. He tries to ignore his ethnic anemia, his national
blossoming, by avoiding wanting to be what he cannot be. But for the others
who do not remember, in a somewhat amiable fashion, its weakness, he uses
artifice, very easy to pierce through, which consists of convincing other to
accept his scale of values, a scale that suits them so little. However, until
now, this trick did not help.

Thus we understand why Germany had the most perfidious princes Moltke
wrote: The German princes were often corrupt that is why they
engendered the most ultramontane Catholicism, a bourgeoisie without
national dignity, and the most international social democracy. It is a
phenomenon altogether German, German in the sense given to us by
Nietzsche: to be a good German means to de-Germanize.

Thus, the German doesnt obey an internal necessity, categorical, and

omnipotent that doesnt tolerate evasion, without pretext, without hesitation.
No force of training arises in his depths, and leaving no loophole,
permitting no reflection, not impressing upon him a direction that would be
truly his. The chimeras, the shimmering bait exercise their influence on them.
He is dazzled by systems founded on a reasoning rich in ideas, concerning,
for example, the structure of the state or a foreign policy based upon these
principles. Given that his actions do not submit to the imperative force of
something fundamental, he falls into the error of believing that he is free to
choose the fashion of his meaning. What he takes for arbitrary freedom is
only in truth an absence of consistency, rocking in the wind. Because destiny,
inscribed on him, does not dictate his actions, in a clear and imperative
fashion, he dreams and makes castles in the air. As soon as he feels that a
danger menaces him, he seeks aid, comfort, and relief in his imaginary
systems, because, in his obscure desire, he no longer knows what path he
must follow. Only he can consider utopian dreamers, sectarian charlatans,
litterateurs, and logicians as political counselors.
We cannot hide the desperate character of such a fact in the scaffolding of the
spirit. Politics that does not arise from the earth with a strong essence as
something natural to it, but that advances painfully by the aid of some points
of found benchmarks with finesse, of elaborate plans with intelligence, of
stable programs with fitness, such a politics always bears the signs of certain
exaltation and exaggeration. Measured on the grand scales of politics, it
seems dilettantish. It lacks the equal, weighty, and harmonious character that
is natural. And in particular, it is not capable of acquiring this virtue, between
all, residing in the sense of measure. Bismarck, sure of his political mastery,
proves this virtue. But when the political genius, an exception among the
Germans, disappeared, the rule was reestablished: uncertainty and lack of
political instinct predominated. That is expressed in a zigzagging politics, in
lacking the control of a political orientation, and in an abdication without any
dignity. Insupportable in victory and contemptible in defeat, here the
German seen by Clemenceau, seen with the coldness of the adversary,
identifying the heart of the problem with clarity and rigor.

For this reason, it is easy to turn the German people from their way. The
forces who invade it from the exterior misguide it. The foreign ideas by
which the will to power and life manifest for other peoples the ideas of
ardor, of hot breath, and passionate spirit explain the sole fact that they are
enveloped by the vitality of the will to power and life are dangerous for the
German. Since the 17th century, the French army won victories everywhere,
French politics felt so strong as to be able to strike with impunity the German
land and people; they went; in this moment, willingly, to the French
civilization. The French spirit, the French style, and the French language
propagated in Germany, as a pernicious epidemic. And today,
regarding Americanism, do not the German people find themselves in a
similar state, where they are incapable of resisting? While the whip of
American creditors demands a harassing levy, they submit, willingly, to the
platitudes, the vacuity, and the banality of American spirituality. In 1918,
the German people capitulated before Western ideas and the Fourteen
Points of Wilson. If, at this moment, the enemy had opposed his will to
victory and destruction, flooding and manifesting, he might even arm for the
battle with extreme despair, sacrificing himself to the last. But since the
enemy hides himself behind ideas, he can break the force of resistance of the
German people trusting in ideas. When a great commander wants to attack a
city said Machiavelli, he must force it to remove the idea that it should
defend itself, thus to avoid its fierce resistance. If it is afraid of reprisals, he
must promise it pardon, if it is afraid of losing its liberty, he must say that the
war is not waged against the entire community, but only against some
ambitious people in the city Although such proceedings are easily
penetrated often by intelligent men the people can often be lead into
error, because they are desirous of an immediate peace, they do not want to
see the traps hidden behind grand promises. The people who have the
tendency to carefully treat the objective contents of an idea as a reality, never
perceive the pitfalls behind the idea.

However and this is an extremely serious question do we have the right to

make conclusions about a general propriety? He should not object: we do
such a thing the statesman can thus act but must we say it? During the
centuries, a pall had fallen on Machiavellis The Prince. In regard to this
work, we understood that the sentiment that he meant was something
extremely dangerous, terribly venomous, carefully hiding and only suitable
for very strong and audacious spirits. China and India had their Machiavellis
and over there they was equally considered as wicked sorcerers. There are a
number of cultivated Indians who would never think to speak of Kautilyas

The practical application of these doctrines, that is to say diplomacy, the

work of foreign policy, would never inspire the same uneasiness? It was a
secret art and even the most impertinent would abstain from showing the
object of their pleasantries. But during the war we demanded that secret
diplomacy be suppressed. No state, the United States included, accepted this
demand. As before, the foreign policy of France, England, and America
stayed a monopoly of a closed circle of competent men, tending in secret to
the state.

It is the instinct of conservation by great political communities who oppose

themselves to the people who have free access to these doctrines and these
secret arts. There is a strange reversal of the relation: political events are
certainly not realizations of ideas, but they can, all the same, unfold smoothly
with the condition that we can be absolutely sure that they mean a realization
of ideas. This certainty is an indispensable social bond. It places the idea
before the plan, it puts it in front. The idea attracts all the views it orients
the masses, in fact homogenizes them. If we can begin to comprehend that the
idea is nothing imperative to politics but only one of its means, the feeling of
an experienced intrinsic necessity would blur in this regard. It would appear
as an arbitrary invention, a simulacrum for a gallery. Politics would not have
a point of view permitting the organization of the masses, that is to say to
model them. And the disorganized masses are devoid of combativeness.

It is in the nature of true political peoples to be deaf to the tempting question

of knowing in what measure the objective contents of an idea agrees with
political reality. Despite the evident contradiction between the two, they hold,
naively, to the idea and submit to, at the same time, without any hesitation,
political reality and to the law that is inherent in it. Instinctively, they know
that the service of the idea is beneficial to their reality. The satisfaction that
they gain when they see their political reality win by the clever service of
ideas is, in their eyes, the proof of existence of an accord between reality and
the contents of ideas. As they are satisfied, the think the ideas are also. Their
satisfaction uniquely provides the evolution they produced, independent of
the objective contents of ideas, in political reality. By reason of this edifying
misunderstanding politically very fertile, because it reinforces faith in the
idea the satisfaction is felt, point blank, as the confirmation of the
rapprochement between the idea and reality, as if exactly this rapprochement
had procured their satisfaction. The strong current of popular essence thirsty
for power drowns the questions, doubts, and critiques that could also arise.

The German people are not a political people. While other peoples,
insouciant and brimming with energy, rely on their instinct, it suffers, feeling
frustrated in its intellectual integrity which, in the political domain, is the
sign of a faltering will. It perceives, in all its acuity, the contradictory
tensions between the objective significance of an idea and political reality. Its
will to life, to power and to creation are not sufficiently released from solid
egoism to be able to protect itself against questioning. It does not have this
irresistible force permitting it to appropriate even the contradictory idea, in
the fashion that is can appear, against its nature as a form of acceptable
expression. The German does not support such a contradiction; he wants to
resolve it at any price. When he makes a profession of faith in favor of an
idea, he takes it seriously. He does not know to banter with the sacred. He
feels engaged bythe objective content of the idea. Scrupulously and with
pedantry he ensures that the requirements of the idea are fulfilled.

Only by pushing globally the requirement of the idea that it is possible to

ignore its objective content. Before 1914, the politics of the Reich proceeded
in this fashion. The heritage of Bismarck taught that politics must follow the
point of view of power. With a heavy enough sincerity, we avow it and the
others avow it. If an idea was only a trumpery, we would not be party to
frauds who, with the aid of a game of hocus-pocus, mystify the others. The
German will to power does not have enough creative wealth, looseness, and
flexibility to invent masks to feel comfortable wearing them, mocking the
world and conquering it under the masks. In the measure where it fashions
ideas, it makes them as the cosmopolitanism of the opposition with the
sole goal, already mentioned, of hiding its shame and weakness. And in the
measure where its own insufficiency oppresses it, it makes the gesture of
renunciation. It would like to place in the wrong peoples who have a very
strong will to power, and it denigrates, on certain occasions, the will of the
others as something reprehensible, which should not exist and is to be

Given its character, the German people might wisely abstain from mixing
ideas with politics. The politics that takes ideas too seriously is not politics.
As Germany would like with such ardor Pan-Europa to mature the most
audacious projects of French hegemony; submitting in an unconditional
fashion to the idea of the League of Nations, putting it in a straitjacket of
inextricable dependencies; to apply the idea ofdisarmament in a fashion so
radical as to become the defenseless victim of the smallest neighbor; to be the
slave of pacifism in a manner as exclusive, they find their happiness in being
powerless among the powerful. That is not the comportment for politics, but
much more the disposition for self-destruction. From the political point of
view, it is suicidal dementia. Here, in summary, is German politics, when it
wants the politics of ideas.

Given the situation, is it not necessary, is it not a simple expression of the

German need to live to sow contempt against political ideas, against all the
ideas that aspire to an influence on political actions, and against the role of
the idea in politics in general. A people who hesitates and must demand
what will be serve? making an appeal in every sense, designing suspicions
and smelling garbage, as soon as an idea imposes itself in the affairs of
politics, that is the German people. They must comprehend that only the will
to power and life shows the way and that the idea only serves this will,
sometimes as a luminous reflection that attracts, sometimes as a spark that
enlightens, sometimes as a mask of trickery, sometimes as a symbol that
gives confidence, sometimes as an encouraging war cry, sometimes as a flag,
a rallying sign given to allies but almost always as an encouragement to
strength in itself and as a pledge of good conscience.