Today's Lesson From The Rebel (1956)
by Albert Camus
Men of action, when they are without faith, have never believed in anything but action. Hitler's untenable paradox lay precisely in wanting to found a stable order on perpetual change and no negation. Rauschning, in his Revolution of Nihilism, was right in saying that the Hitlerian revolution represented unadulterated dynamism. In Germany, shaken to its foundations by a calamatous war, by defeat, and by economic distress, values no longer existed. Although one must take into account what Goethe called "the German destiny of making everything difficult," the epidemic of suicides that swept through the entire country between the two wars indicates a great deal about the state of mental confusion. To those who depair of everything, not reason but only passion can provide a faith, and in this particular case it must be the same passion that lay at the root of the despair--namely, humiliation and hatred. There was no longer any standards of values, both common to and superior to all these men, in the name of which it would have been possible for them to judge one another. The Germany of 1933 thus agreed to adopt the degraded values of a mere handful of men and tried to impose them on an entire civilization. Deprived of the morality of Goethe, Germany chose, and submitted to, the ethics of the gang.
Gangster morality is an inexhaustible round of triumph and revenge, defeat and resentment. When Mussolini extolled "the elemental forces of the individual," he announced the exaltation of the dark powers of blood and instinct, the biological justification of all the worst things produced by the instinct of domination. Frank emphasized "the hatred of form" which animated Hitler. It is true that this man was nothing but an elemental force in motion, directed and rendered more effective by calculated cunning and by a relentless tactical clairvoyance. Even his physical appearance, which was thoroughly mediocre and commonplace, was no limitation: it established him firmly with the masses. Action alone kept him alive. For him, to exist was to act. That is why Hitler and his regime could not dispense with enemies. They could only define themselves, psychopathic dandies that they were, in relation to their enemies, and only assume their final form in the bloody battle that was to be their downfall. The Jews, the Freemasons, the plutocrats, the Anglo-Saxons, the bestial Slavs succeeded one another in their propaganda and their history as a means of propping up, each time a little higher, the blind force that was stumbling headlong toward its end. Perpetual strife demanded perpetual stimulants.