Historians have long debated who is to blame for the First and Second World War. There is almost a consensus that all great powers share the blame for the First World War. A large number of historians – if not most – think that the Second World War was the consequence of the First World War and especially the Versailles peace treaty that humiliated Germany. Virtually all historians also agree that the German people did not lust for world conquest even if Kaiser and Hitler might have.
Mises had a very different view. He believed in collective guilt. He believed that Germany and especially the German people were to blame for both World Wars. Why? Because virtually all Germans were Nazis eager to conquer the world!
The following quotations from Mises’ book Omnipotent Government make his extreme attitude and opinions perfectly clear. The emphasis are added for clarification.
German nationalism did not differ from other peoples’ nationalism until—in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s— the German nationalists made what they believed to be a great discovery. They discovered that their nation was the strongest in Europe. They concluded that Germany was therefore powerful enough to subdue Europe or even the whole world. (p. 129)
Pan-Germanism was an achievement of intellectuals and writers. The professors of history, law, economics, political science, geography, and philosophy were its most uncompromising advocates. They converted the students of the universities to their ideas. Very soon the graduates made more converts. (p. 131)
Certainly the Germans, if they had not been more numerous than the Swedes, would not have succumbed to the mentality of world conquest. (p. 136)
In the ’nineties of the past century [1890’s] Germany was already almost unanimous in its support of policies which were designed as the preparation for the impending war for more space, the war for world hegemony. (p. 235)
The essential ideas of Nazism were developed by the Pan-Germans and the socialists of the chair in the last thirty years of the nineteenth century. The system was completed long before the outbreak of the first World War. Nothing was lacking and nothing but a new name was added later. The plans and policies of the Nazis differ from those of their predecessors in imperial Germany only in the fact that they are adapted to a different constellation of political conditions. The ultimate aim, German world hegemony, and the means for its attainment, conquest, have not changed. (p. 147)
King Edward VII, himself the son of a German father and of a mother whose German family did not assimilate itself to British life, was highly suspicious of the challenging attitudes of his nephew, William II. It was to the King’s credit that Great Britain, almost too late, turned toward a policy of defense and of cooperation with France and Russia. But even then the British did not realize that not the Kaiser alone but almost the whole German nation was eager for conquest. President Wilson labored under the same mistake. He too believed that the court and the Junkers were the instigators of the aggressive policy and that the people were peace loving. Similar errors prevail today. Misled by Marxian prejudices, people cling to the opinion that the Nazis are a comparatively small group which has, through fraud and violence, imposed its yoke on the reluctant masses. They do not understand that the internal struggles which shook Germany were disputes among people who were unanimous in regard to the ultimate ends of German foreign policy. (p. 148)
It was a serious mistake not to recognize this militarist mentality of the German masses. (p. 167)
In a unique, nonrepeatable historical situation the German nation chose war and rejected the peaceful solution. This was an individual historical event, which cannot be further analyzed or explained. They crossed their Rubicon. (p. 235)
.. Germans chose the road to catastrophe. (p. 236)
During First World War Mises fought in the East European front together with the Germans. Did he already then think that Germany and practically the whole German nation had caused the war because they lusted after world conquest? Curiously, Mises biographers Murray Rothbard and Guido Hulsmann say nothing about this strange attitude of Mises.
Mises mentions that after the First World War there was the threat of a communist revolution.
The People’s Mandataries [Members of parliament] had already lost all hope of salvation when suddenly help appeared. [Nationalist] Troops invaded Berlin and suppressed the communist revolt. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were taken prisoner and then assassinated.
This victory did not end the civil war. It continued for months in the provinces, and time and again broke out afresh in Berlin. However, the victory reported by the troops in January, 1919, in Berlin safeguarded the elections for the Constituent Assembly, the session of this Parliament, and the promulgation of the Weimar Constitution. (p. 198)
But for the nationalist gangs and troops and for the remnants of the old army, they [Communists] could have seized power throughout the Reich and established Bolshevism in Germany. There was but one factor that could stop their assault and that really did stop it: the armed forces of the Right. (p. 199)
Very true, but what about the Jewish communists? Mises sometimes passingly refers to the communist coup attempts of Rosa Luxemburg (Berlin), Kurt Eisner (Munchen), Bela Kuhn (Budabest) and Otto Bauer (Vienna) but never mentions that they were all Jews. Neither does he mention that Jews dominated the Bolshevik revolution. Why is this not relevant? Would it not at least make it more understandable why many people were “anti-Semitic”, i.e. very afraid and suspicious of the Jews? Especially since many Jews supported the humiliating Versailles peace treaty. In fact, so did Mises himself.
Versailles Peace Treaty
Mises believed that since Germans were totally responsible for the First World War an therefore they should be heavily punished.
But the Treaty of Versailles was not unfair to Germany and it did not plunge the German people into misery. If the provisions of the treaty had been enforced, it would have been impossible for Germany to rearm and to attack again. The mischief was not that the treaty was bad so far as Germany was concerned, but that the victorious powers permitted Germany to defy some of its most important clauses. (p. 211)
The second provision of the treaty which used to be criticized severely concerned reparations. The Germans had devastated a great part of Belgium and of northeastern France. Who was to pay for the reconstruction of these areas? France and Belgium, the assailed, or Germany, the aggressor? The victorious or the defeated? The treaty decided that Germany ought to pay. (p. 213)
Even if the treaty had left Germany’s European territory untouched, if it had not forced it to cede its colonies, if it had not imposed reparation payments and limitation of armaments, a new war would not have been averted. (p. 217)
Mises believed that the problem was not Nazis but the German people which lusted after world conquest. Nazis only did what the people demanded.
Persuasion, not violence, had converted the immense majority of the nation to the tenets of militant nationalism. If Hitler had not succeeded in winning the race for dictatorship, somebody else would have won it. There were plenty of candidates whom he had to eclipse: Kapp, General Ludendorff, Captain Ehrhardt, Major Papst, Forstrat Escherich, Strasser, and many more. Hitler had no inhibitions and thus he defeated his beer instructed or more scrupulous competitors. Nazism conquered Germany because it never encountered any adequate intellectual resistance. It would have conquered the whole world if, after the fall of France, Great Britain and the United States had not begun to fight it seriously. (p. 221-22)
But even if the adversaries of aggression had adequately exposed the dangers and the risks of a new war, the plain citizen would still have given preference to the Nazis. (p. 200)
It is probable that today about 80 per cent of all German-speaking Europeans are Nazis. If we leave out the Jews, the Austrians, and the German-speaking Swiss, we might say that more than 90 per cent of the Germans support Hitler’s fight for world hegemony. (p. 233)
Virtually no historian believes that over 90% of Germans supported first Kaiser’s and then Hitler’s fight for world hegemony. Ordinary people just wanted to live their life in peace. Over 90% certainly were not ready to sacrifice their lives. They certainly did not want to fight and starve for years to help gain “world hegemony” for Germany.
Since the Germans lusted after world hegemony it was imperative to immediately destroy Germany once and for all. This required that the British empire be put on a war-footing.
The only way to stop Hitler would have been to spend large sums for rearmament and to return to conscription. The whole British nation, not only the aristocracy, was strongly opposed to such measures. (p. 189)
Here we have the explanation why Mises suddenly dropped the classical liberal opposition towards conscription. To justify it Mises had to claim that Germans were trying to conquer the whole world and in the process annihilate many countries such as France.
The problem which Great Britain had to face was simply this: Is it in the interest of the nation to permit Germany to conquer the whole European continent? It was Hitler’s great plan to keep England neutral at all costs, until the conquest of France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Ukraine should be completed. Should Great Britain render him this service? Whoever answered this question in the negative must not talk but act. But the British politicians buried their heads in the sand. Given the state of British public opinion, France should have understood that it was isolated and must meet the Nazi danger by itself. The French know little about the Germany mentality and German political conditions. Yet when Hitler seized power every French politician should have realized that the main point in his plans was the annihilation of France. (p. 189-90)
They [French nationalists] refused to recognize the fact that Hitler was eager to destroy France once and for all. Hitler, they hinted, is less a foe of France than of the Jews; as an old warrior he sympathizes with his French fellow warriors. They belittled German rearmament. Besides, they said, Hitler rearms only in order to fight Jewish Bolshevism. Nazism is Europe’s shield against the assault of World Jewry and its foremost representative, Bolshevism. The Jews are eager to push France into a war against the Nazis. But France is wise enough not to pull any chestnuts out of the fire for the Jews. France will not bleed for the Jews. (p. 190)
Many French nationalists really did want to attack Germany. They wanted the Nazis and Soviets to annihilate each other. Why is that not a good plan? Perhaps because it would not have been good for the Jews. Germany winning the Soviet Union would have been very bad for the Jews. Many Jews were in leading positions in the Soviet Union but not in Germany. Anti-Semitism was outlawed in the Soviet Union while in Germany it was official policy.
Sure, the Jews would not have been exterminated especially since Hitler would not have wanted to provoke the West. But they – including the family of Mises – would have become second class citizens in Eastern Europe or they would have had to move to Palestine or Madagascar.
Mises believed that since the French nationalists did not want to attack Germany they must have been anti-Semites. This was supposedly already proved during the Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906) at the turn of the century.
It was not the first time in French history that the nationalists put their anti-Semitism above their French patriotism. In the Dreyfus Affair they fought vigorously in order to let a treacherous officer quietly evade punishment while an innocent Jew languished in prison. (p. 190)
The Dreyfus Affair was not clear cut. It may well be that the Jewish officer Dreyfus really was a spy working for the Germans. Afterall, he had a very good motive: He opposed the alliance between France and “anti-Semitic” Russia. Spying would have been perfectly logical. It is also over the top to accuse people of anti-Semitism just because they disagree on a complicated court case.
Since Mises was convinced that the German nation was trying to take over the world and annihilate many countries he demanded total war against the Germans. There should be no negotiated peace, neutral countries or neutral people. Germans must be starved with blockade and they must be bombed into submission.
Mises wanted to break all rules of warfare and demanded total war. Starving and bombing civilians was not a war crime because all Germans are Nazis anyway.
A negotiated peace, the outcome of a stalemate, would not mean more than a temporary armistice. The Nazis will not abandon their plans for world hegemony. They will renew their assault. Nothing can stop these wars but the decisive victory or the final defeat of Nazism. It is a fatal mistake to look at this war as if it were one of the many wars fought in the last centuries between the countries of Western civilization. This is total war. … Under present conditions neutrality is equal to a virtual support of Nazism. The same holds true for German-speaking men and women whether they are citizens of the Reich or not. (p. 237-8)
Only one thing could put an end to Nazi rule: a military defeat. The blockade and the bombing of German cities by British and American planes will finally convince the Germans that Nazism is not the best means to make their nation prosperous. (p. 211)
Occupation of Germany
After the war there should be no peace treaty but total occupation of Germany. The United Nations should supervise the German state and its police forces. Germans should not have any bombs, armies or even airplanes.
It is even very doubtful whether it would be of any value at all to conclude a formal peace treaty with Germany after its defeat. (p. 256)
The alliance of the victorious nations must be made lasting. Germany, Italy, and Japan must be totally disarmed. They must be deprived of the right to maintain armies, navies, or air fleets. A small police force, armed with rifles only, can be permitted to them. No kind of armament production should be tolerated. The guns and the ammunition for their policemen should be given to them by the United Nations. They should not be permitted to fly or build any planes. Commercial aviation in their countries should be operated by foreign companies using foreign planes and employing foreign pilots. (p. 258)
This is not a very pleasant solution of the problem, but it is the only one that could work satisfactorily, provided the victorious nations maintain their alliance after the war. (p. 258)
Plan to partition Germany
Some classical liberals such as Mises’ non-Jewish student Friedrich von Hayek opposed the indefinite total occupation and subjugation of Germany. Instead Hayek proposed that the independence of dozens of small German states should be restored. This would remove the military threat, decrease the influence of militarist Prussia and encourage Germans to adopt free trade and classical liberalism. Hayek made his proposal just after the Second World War in the summer of 1945.
Mises was totally against this classical liberal solution proposed by Hayek and others.
Today, in this age of nationalism, the Germans also are nationalists. They have to face a very serious economic problem, and their etatistic prejudices prevent them from seeing any solution other than the conquest of Lebensraum. They worship the “brute force” whose elimination Schiller had hoped for. Under such conditions nationalism could not be overthrown by a partition of the Reich into a score of independent states.
In each of these states the heat of nationalist passions would flare up; the bellicose spirit would virtually coordinate and unify their political and military activities, even if formally the independence of each section were to be preserved up to the day of the new mobilization. (p. 261)
Paradoxically Mises did support the existence of separate Austria and Switzerland but for some reason opposed independent Bavaria, Wurttenberg, Saxony, Hamburg, Bremen, etc.
Our problem would be simpler if all men spoke the same language or if the various linguistic groups were at least more equal in size. But the presence of seventy million German nationalists in the Reich is a datum, a necessary point of beginning, of present-day politics. It cannot be brushed aside by the dismemberment of the Reich. It would be a fatal delusion to assume that the problem could be solved in this way.
To safeguard the independence of Austria and Switzerland must, it is true, be the foremost aim of all future plans for a reconstruction of Europe. But the dismemberment of the old Reich (the Altreich, as the Germans say, in order to distinguish it from Gross-Deutsland including Austria and the Sudetenland) would be a futile measure. p. 262
So if Germany should not be partitioned how to make sure that it will be kept down indefinitely? By building a huge political and military union. Western countries must give up their independence and join the union.
Mises seems to even have wanted some kind of military union with the Soviet Union. Naturally he did not explain why the rule of Soviet Union is better than independent Germany. Why was Soviet Union not an evil empire that occupied half of Europe? Could it be that the Soviet Union did not threaten the Jews as much as did Germany? After all, the Soviet Union was largely created by the Jews. Gulags were not that bad compared to the stubborn enormous lust of the German people to conquer the world.
Mises demanded that all countries join into huge political unions. There should be at least a Western European Union, Eastern European Union and American Union. There would also be a strong United Nations that would include all the countries of the world including African and Asian countries.
The main need is a lasting cooperation among the nations today united in their efforts to smash the totalitarian aggression. No plan can work if the nations concerned do not transform their present alliance into a permanent and lasting union. … If the Western democracies do not succeed in establishing a permanent union, the fruits of victory will be lost again. Their disunity will provide the defeated aggressors with the opportunity to enter anew the scene of political intrigues and plots, to rearm and to form a new and stronger coalition for another assault. (p. 265)
Unless they choose effective solidarity, the democracies are doomed. They cannot safeguard their way of life if they seek to preserve what the terminology of diplomacy calls “national sovereignty.”∗ They must choose between vesting all power in a new supernational authority or being enslaved by nations not prepared to treat them on an equal footing. The alternative to incorporation into a new democratic supernational system is not unrestricted sovereignty but ultimate subjugation by the totalitarian powers. This is obvious in the case of small nations like the Dutch, the Danes, the Norwegians … (p. 265)
If a country does not want to abandon government interference with business, and nevertheless renounces protectionism in its relations with the other member nations of the new union to be formed, it must vest all power in the authority ruling this union and completely surrender its own sovereignty to the supernational authority. (p. 267)
The policies of government interference with business and of national planning beget economic nationalism. The abandonment of economic nationalism, an indispensable condition for the establishment of lasting peace, can only be achieved through a unification of government, if people do not want to return to the system of unhampered market economy. This is the crux of the matter. (P. 270)
But let us not forget that such a union must be established if any peace scheme is to work. The alternative to the realization of a union of the Western democracies is a return to the ominous conditions prevailing from 1918 to 1939, and consequently to new and still more dreadful wars. (p. 271)
The whole territory of Eastern Europe must therefore be organized as a political unit under a strictly unitary democratic government. Within this area every individual should have the right to choose where he wishes to live and to work. The laws and the authorities should treat all natives—i.e., all citizens of East Europe— alike, without privileges or discrimination for or against individuals or groups. Let us call this new political structure the “Eastern Democratic Union” (EDU). … The supremacy of the central government should not be limited by any constitutional prerogatives of local authorities. Thus the EDU will include about 700 000 square miles with some 120 000 000 people using 17 different languages. (p. 275.)
The error of the classical liberals
But why create huge political unions and ultimately a world government? Would it not be better to let different nations be independent and learn from mistakes and successes? Is this not what the classical liberals always proposed?
Mises counters that the classical liberals were too optimistic when they thought that people and nations would learn from their mistakes and successes.
There was a psychological error in the reasoning of the old liberals. They overrated both the intellectual capacity of the average man and the ability of the elite to convert their less judicious fellow citizens to sound ideas. p. 284
Few classical liberals entertained such super-optimistic ideas. Instead classical liberals believed in decentralization and learning step by step. They knew that many if not most people are often stupid and greedy. But this is precisely why power should be divided among branches of government and between different local units in a decentralized political structure. Moreover, this is also why it is good to have many states so that nations could learn from each others mistakes and successes. This learning process would be accelerated by the fact that people and capital could vote with their feet.
For some reason Mises totally ignores this decentralist doctrine of the classical liberals. Mises offers only two alternatives: People have to suddenly become enlightened pure classical liberals or they must be forced into a world government.
If people refuse to abandon etatism [interventionism and socialism], they cannot escape the curse of economic nationalism except by vesting all power in a unified supernational government of the world or of a union of democratic nations. (p. 286)
It is ironic that a Jew who connected the micro and macro in economics separated them in politics. But both actions were predictable. It was in the interest of the Jews.