I find it astonishing that many of today’s younger White Nationalists have read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals but not Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. I do not wish to denigrate Alinsky’s book, which should be required reading for all political activists and organizers. But Hitler was a formidable political organizer as well, and he recorded the insights he gained from his first four-and-a-half years of activism in Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which he wrote in prison in 1923-1924 and published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926.
The best place in Mein Kampf to begin appreciating Hitler the political organizer is volume 2, chapter 11, “Propaganda and Organization,” which contains a number of deep political insights formulated in lapidary aphorisms. The chapter falls into two parts, the first dealing with the relationship of propaganda to political organizing, the second dealing with the reorganization of the NSDAP under Hitler’s leadership. I will discuss the first part here and the second in a separate article.
Politics and Metapolitics
In “Propaganda and Organization,” Hitler deals with the relationship of metapolitics to politics, for propaganda refers to communicating the intellectual preconditions of political action, and organization refers to creating the institutional framework of political action — two essentially metapolitical activities.
Hitler begins by emphasizing the priority of metapolitics over politics: “Propaganda had to run far in advance of organization and provide it with human material to be worked upon” (Mannheim trans., p. 578). Hitler explains that, “I devoted myself to propaganda in the first period of my activity in the movement” in order to “gradually fill a small nucleus of men with the new doctrine, and so prepare the material which could later furnish the first elements of an organization” (p. 581). One cannot create a political organization out of men who are not of one mind about who they are, what they are doing, and why.
Hitler declares himself “an enemy of too rapid and too pedantic organizing” (p. 578). Organizations necessarily congeal into hierarchies, and the people at the top naturally resist challenges from below. It is crucial to avoid premature organizing, and rigid (pedantisch) structures, lest inferior people be placed in positions of responsibility and prevent superior people from rising to replace them. Thus, “It is more expedient for a time to disseminate an idea by propaganda from a central point and then carefully examine the gradually gathering material for leading minds” (pp. 579-80).
Hitler also cautions against using superficial criteria for judging the individuals drawn in by propaganda efforts: “Sometimes it will turn out that men inconspicuous in themselves must nevertheless be regarded as born leaders” (p. 580).
Hitler’s aim in the early years of the National Socialist movement was to create a vanguard, an elite that would lead the National Socialist German Workers Party and eventually all of Germany. To create that elite, he needed to attract like-minded people and convert others to his way of thinking by articulating and disseminating his worldview, i.e., through propaganda. Once these outreach efforts bore fruit, the party had to recruit people with leadership potential, then train them to ever higher levels of awareness and competence.
Theorists, Organizers, and Leaders
Hitler rejects categorically the notion that “a wealth of theoretical knowledge” is “proof for the qualities and abilities of a leader.” Indeed, “The opposite is often the case” and “great theoreticians are only in the rarest cases great organizers.” The virtue of a theorist is to produce systems of “abstractly correct laws,” but the organizer marshals human material to put these laws into practice. Thus the organizer “must primarily be a psychologist.” Organizers are also pragmatists, who must take human beings as they are in the present, with all their flaws and weaknesses, and turn them into “a formation which will be a living organism, imbued with strong and stable power,” which will serve as the vehicle and instrument for realizing the ideal (p. 580).
If theorists rarely overlap with organizers, then they almost never overlap with a small category of organizers, namely leaders: “For leading means: being able to move masses,” which is something that can be achieved by agitators and demagogues gifted with psychological tact, even in the absence of correct theoretical knowledge.
Regarding the relationship of fundamental ideas to politics, Hitler dismisses as “quite useless” to argue about “which is of greater importance, to set up ideals and aims for mankind, or to realize them. Here, as so often in life: one would be utterly meaningless without the other” (p. 580). Ideals that are not realized in action are empty. Action that is not directed by ideals is blind.
The theorist sets the aims of a movement. The organizer creates a machine to pursue and realize those aims. The leader guides the machine to its goal. Hitler asserts that “the combination of theoretician, organizer, and leader in one person is the rarest thing that can be found on this earth; this combination makes the great man” (pp. 580-81).
Supporters and Members
When a movement’s propaganda begins to attract people, they must be divided into supporters and members. The distinction is simple: “A supporter of a movement is one who declares himself to be in agreement with its aims; a member is one who fights for them.” Being a supporter “requires only a passive recognition of an idea” while membership “demands active advocacy and defense.” Being a supporter requires only “understanding” of a doctrine, while membership requires both understanding and “the courage personally to advocate and disseminate what has been understood.” All members are supporters, but not all supporters are members. Only members are part of the movement organization. Since the courage to fight for ideas is rarer than the ability to passively support them, “to ten supporters there will be only one or two members” (p. 581).
Propaganda is directed to the public at large, and to subgroups within the public, but it is still directed to men en masse, not at individuals, whereas organizers have to be concerned with carefully evaluating the character and abilities of the individuals who are potential members.
Propaganda directed to the general public makes them “ripe for the victory of [an] idea,” while “organization achieves victory” by mobilizing those supporters who will fight for the idea’s realization.
Hitler also points out that the victory of an idea comes more quickly the broader its dissemination and acceptance in society, and the more “exclusive, rigid, and firm the organization which carries out the fight in practice.” Thus, “the number of supporters cannot be too large, but . . . the number of members can more readily be too large than too small.” Moreover, if “propaganda has imbued a whole people with an idea, the organization can draw the consequences with a handful of men” (p. 582).
In other words, there is an inverse relationship between the breadth of propaganda’s success and the necessary size of an organization. The more successful the propaganda, the smaller the organization needs to be. The more supporters there are in the general public, the fewer members are necessary. The less successful the propaganda, the larger the organization needs to be. The fewer the supporters, the more members are needed.
Hitler emphasizes that ultimately, the aim of both propaganda and organization is political power. Thus although the first task of propaganda is to attract people, and the first task of organization is to create a vehicle for more propaganda, both propaganda and organization ultimately have to challenge and replace the existing system: “The second task of propaganda is the disruption of the existing state of affairs and the permeation of this state of affairs with the new doctrine,” and “the second ask of organization must be the struggle for power, thus to achieve the final success of the doctrine” (p. 583).
Two Extreme Possibilities
The inverse relation between breadth of propaganda and size of organization points to two extreme possibilities.
First, if propaganda becomes so widespread that it penetrates all the institutions of a society, then a single specifically political (as opposed to propaganda) organization fighting for the realization of the idea would no longer be necessary simply because all institutions of society would now fight for the realization of the idea.
This essentially describes present-day Jewish intellectual hegemony in white societies. While there is a formidable array of specifically Jewish organizations working to maintain Jewish hegemony, all other institutions — government, academia, the churches, business, the culture industries, etc. — are so permeated with Jewish propaganda and subversion that they are now de facto organs of Jewish power as well.
And if white racial consciousness becomes equally hegemonic, then White Nationalism can be achieved by means of propaganda alone, for a fighting White Nationalist organization is redundant if all of society’s organizations are fighting for White Nationalism as well.
The other extreme is a society in which propaganda has minimal diffusion and acceptance, in which case the organization becomes, in effect, an invading army seizing control of a hostile population by force.
When faced with overwhelming Jewish intellectual hegemony, such Old Right-style National Socialists as William Pierce and Harold Covington have conceived their struggle essentially along the lines of a conquering army. The North American New Right aims at the opposite extreme, on the principle that present-day Jewish hegemony should be fought on its own terms. Bad ideas must be combated with good ideas, institutional subversion with institutional renewal.
I do not deny that it may be necessary for political organizations to actually struggle for power. (I simply have no talent for or interest in politics.) But I do believe that such organizing is premature before propaganda delivers quality human material, and if propaganda is wildly successful, White Nationalism may not need to create new institutions, simply because it can capture the existing institutions by capturing the minds of those who control them.
Keep Propaganda Truthful
One of the most important lessons to draw from Hitler’s discussion of propaganda and organization is the necessity of keeping one’s propaganda truthful — even when the truth hurts or seems scary and “radical.” One must direct one’s propaganda to the general public and all subgroups within it. One must find ways to appeal to everyone. But this pertains only to the form of one’s propaganda, the different media one employs, the different ways one pitches it to different audiences. In these matters, one should be maximally pragmatic, flexible, and innovative.
But one must not, under any circumstances, alter the content of one’s message merely to appeal to weak and squeamish people. Such tactics may increase the number of nominal supporters and members. But they are not worth the costs they impose. Under normal circumstances, associating with people who do not fundamentally agree with one’s platform necessitates that one spend time wrangling with them rather than pursuing one’s long-term aims. One ends up fighting one’s “friends” rather than one’s enemies. And in emergency situations — when one has to count on an organization acting with one mind and will — the squeamish will sheer off and abandon you when you need them most. So, in terms of what is most important — namely, the achievement of one’s ultimate goals — moderation at the expense of truth gains one nothing.
The North American New Right, for example, has been advised to “soften” its stance on a number of issues — as if we were peddling seat cushions rather than proclaiming crucially important truths. We have been urged to soften our take on the Jewish problem to appeal to the squeamish. We have been urged to soften our stance on biological race to appeal to religious obscurantists, petty nationalists, etc. We are constantly asked to make our movement more friendly to women by censoring certain male writers. (I have given a platform to female writers, but they have lost interest quickly.) Finally, we are constantly prodded to censor honest religious dissent to pander to Christians.
Ironically, the positions I have outlined on these matters are as “soft” as one can reasonably go — meaning that I concede to facts and reasonable arguments, not to dogmas, feelings, and folly. But there is no advantage in compromising our intellectual honesty merely to associate with people who will at best slow us down and, at worst, abandon us in a crisis.
Hitler shows us that we can ignore all this “clever” and “practical” advice and still win. Sometimes the clever thing is not the smart thing to do.
Keep Organizations United
Just as it is more important to keep one’s propaganda truthful than appealing, it is more important for one’s organizations to be radical and united than large, flabby, and inclusive. The purpose of an organization is to fight for the realization of its guiding ideas. To do this, an organization must have strength, which requires both numbers and unity. But strength does not lie merely in numbers, since growth that is too rapid or indiscriminate can weaken unity, “since only a small fraction of mankind is by nature energetic and bold, a movement which endlessly enlarges its organization would inevitably be weakened someday as a result” (p. 584). Thus one must manage growth to maintain unity, so additional numbers strengthen rather than weaken the organization.
Truthful propaganda makes unified organizations possible, as Hitler explains:
As director of the party’s propaganda, I took many pains not only to prepare the soil for the future greatness of the movement, but by an extremely radical conception in this work, I also strove to bring it about that the party should obtain only the best material. For the more radical and inflammatory my propaganda was, the more this frightened weaklings and hesitant characters, and prevented them from penetrating the primary core of our organization. . . . The movement, they said, was so radical that membership in it would expose the individual to the gravest difficulties, nay, dangers and we shouldn’t take it as amiss if the honest, peaceable citizen should stand aside for the present at least, even if at heart he was entirely with the cause. And this was good. (p. 586)
Although Hitler would have preferred a small but radical party to a large and centrist one, he understood that this was not the only alternative. His aim was a very large, very radical, and highly unified party, which he created in the end by sticking to his principles from the beginning.
Hitler understood the importance of getting things off to a good start. He understood that with time, correct principles — or small deviations from such principles — have dramatically different results. He had faith in the truth of even his most unpopular and discomfiting ideas. Thus he aimed to change the public mind rather than merely pander to it. So he was unwilling to dilute truth with ignorance and error in order to win short term gains at the expense of long-term victory.
In the end, Hitler’s problem was not too few followers and members, but too many of them:
The greatest danger that can threaten a movement is a membership which has grown abnormally as a result of too rapid success. For, just as a movement is shunned by all cowardly and egoistic individuals, as long as it has to fight bitterly, these same people rush with equal alacrity to acquire membership when the success of the party has been made probable or already realized by developments. (p. 584)
Thus, as soon as the party began gaining momentum, Hitler blocked new enrollments, then added new people only slowly and after the most exacting process of scrutiny. His aim was to “preserve the core of the movement in unvitiated freshness and health” (p. 585). He also restricted the leadership of the party to this core alone. This measure not only protected the leadership from penetration by opportunists, but also by enemy agents, who would target the party for subversion as soon as it became a threat.
Our Struggle Too
I believe that Hitler’s Mein Kampf is relevant to our struggle too, because White Nationalism in the United States is in a position analogous to the early years of that National Socialist movement. This will be a galling statement to some, given the decades of White Nationalist efforts behind us. Yet those efforts have to be judged a failure, either due to the lack of a coherent worldview, or the inability to propagate one, or the failure to recruit a genuine vanguard — or some combination of these failings.
Ideologically, the movement has been most compromised by conservatism, mainstreaming, the failure to confront the Jewish problem, and a general lack of seriousness about the role of ideas in politics.
But the greatest failures have been in terms of cadre building. We have simply failed to attract and cultivate quality people. Because of premature populism, we have attracted people who are average or below average in intelligence, taste, moral character, and moral seriousness. Because we lack confidence in our message, we are content to coddle cranks and kooks, even though each one repulses 100 superior people.
Because of superficiality and confused motives, competence and character frequently take a back seat to looks, bonhomie, “clubbability,” bourgeois respectability, pandering to Christians, and even such bizarre fixations as gender parity. Movement groups have been modeled on churches, cults, historical societies, fraternities, scout troops, Masonic lodges, businesses, historical reenactment societies, the Republican party, etc. It is only for lack of women that they have not yet been modeled on ballroom dancing clubs. Some of them have even been modeled on the NSDAP, 1919-1945, in complete defiance of historical context. Every model, really, except a machine for realizing our ideas in the 21st century.
But before we organize, we must have people. And to attract people, we need propaganda. But before we engage in propaganda, we need a message. We need to figure out who we are, what we want, and why. That brings us back to metapolitics and the project of Counter-Currents/North American New Right.
1. At least in this chapter, Hitler does not explain what differentiates leaders from other organizers.
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 523 Greg Johnson Interviews Pox Populi
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 522 Current Things Ask Me Anything with Greg Johnson, Gaddius Maximus, & Pox Populi
Ian Kershaw’s Personality & Power
Black History Month Resources
Greg Johnson Speaks to Horus the Avenger About Charles Krafft
Against White Unionism
The 2022 Counter-Currents Fall Retreat James Edwards & Sam Dickson on White Nationalism in Electoral Politics
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Resources at Counter-Currents