of the Goebbels’ speech Knowledge and propaganda, sent to seven political parties in Serbia
(Hitlers’ name was changed to the name of the leader of the party, national-socialism to democracy, social democracy…, and the word “propaganda” to “political marketing”)
Ideas in themselves are timeless. They are not tied to individuals, much less to a people. They rest in a people, it is true, and affect their attitudes. Ideas, people say, are in the clouds. When someone comes along who can put in words what everyone feels in their hearts, each feels: “Yes! That is what I have always wanted and hoped for.” That is what happens the first time one hears one of Hitler’s major speeches. I have met people who had attended a Hitler meeting for the first time, and at the end they said: “This man put in words everything I have been searching for for years. For the first time, someone gave form to what I want.” Others are lost in confusion, but suddenly someone stands up and puts it in words. Goethe’s words become reality: “Lost in silent misery, God gave someone to express my suffering.”
Some kind of idea is at the beginning of every political movement. It is not necessary to put this idea in a thick book, nor that it take political form in a hundred long paragraphs. History proves that the greatest world movements have always developed when their leaders knew how to unify their followers under a short, clear theme. That is clear from the French Revolution, or Cromwell’s movement, or Buddhism, Islam, or Christianity. Christ’s goal was clear and simple: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He gathered his followers behind that straightforward statement. Because this teaching was simple, crisp, clear, and understandable, enabling the broad masses to stand behind it, it in the end conquered the world.
Then one can say that a person has a worldview—not because he knows a lot or has read a lot—but because he sees all of life from a certain standpoint, and measures everything by a certain standard. I am a Christian when I believe that the meaning of my life is the heavy responsibility to love my neighbor as myself. Kant once said: “Act as if the principle of your life could be the principle for your entire nation.” I am a National Socialist not when I want this or that from politics, rather when I consider all aspects of daily life. I must act in all things by putting the good of the whole above my personal good, by putting the good of the state above my personal good. But then I also have the guarantee that such a state will be able to protect my personal life. I am a National Socialist when I see everything in politics, culture or the economy from this standpoint. I therefore do not evaluate the theater from the standpoint of whether it is elegant or amusing, rather I ask: Is it good for my people, is it useful for them, does it strengthen the community? If so, the community in turn can benefit, support and strengthen me. I do not see the economy as some sort of way of making money, rather I want an economy that will strengthen the people, make them healthy and powerful. Then too I can expect that this people will support and maintain me. If I see things in this way, I see the economy in National Socialist terms.
If I develop this crisp, clear idea into a system of thought that includes all human drives, wishes and actions, I have a worldview.
As an idea develops into a worldview, the goal is the state. The knowledge does not remain the property of a certain group, but fights for power. It is not just the fantasy of a few people among the people, rather it becomes the idea of the rulers, the circles that have power. The view does not only preach, but it is carried out in practice. Then the idea becomes the worldview of the state. The worldview has become a government organism when it seizes power and can influence life not only in theory, but in practical everyday life.
Now we must consider who is the carrier, the transmitter, the guardian of such ideas. An idea always lives in individuals. It seeks an individual to transmit its great intellectual force. It becomes alive in a brain, and seeks escape through the mouth. The idea is preached by individuals, individuals who will never be satisfied to have the knowledge remain theirs alone. You know that from experience. When one knows something one does not keep it hidden like a buried treasure, but rather one seeks to tell others. One looks for people who should know it. One feels that everyone else should know as well, for one feels alone when no one else knows. For example, if I see a beautiful painting in an art gallery, I have the need to tell others. I meet a good friend and say to him: “I have found a wonderful picture. I have to show it to you.” The same is true of ideas. If an idea lives in an individual, he has the urge to tell others. There is some mysterious force in us that drives us to tell others. The greater and simpler the idea is, the more it relates to daily life, the more one has the desire to tell everyone about it.
If I believe that the nation must be governed by the principle that the common good comes before the individual good, I will tell it to those to whom it applies. As soon as I realize that this principle is not only of a transcendental nature, but that it applies to daily life, I have the need to tell it to those in the economic world. And if I see it applies to culture as well, I have the need to tell it to those people involved in cultural activities. The great masses will never be won simply by such a sentence; it must cast its shadow over all areas of human life.
You see how an idea spreads and becomes a worldview, and how the bearer, the individual, reaches out to form a community, and how an organization, then a movement grows from the individual. The idea is no longer buried in the heart and mind of an individual. Now there are four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, eighty, a hundred, and ever more. That is the secret of ideas; they are like a wildfire that cannot be restrained. They are like a gas that seeps through everything. Where an idea finds entry, it enters, and soon that person is influencing others. The others cannot stop it. They may believe they can stop the fire by force. They may even be able to do so for two, or ten, twenty, or fifty years. But that is not significant in the larger course of world history.
Each movement begins as a party. That does not mean it has to follow the methods of parliamentary parties. We see a party as a part of the people. As an idea spreads, becoming a worldview that spreads to the community, the community will want to give the idea practical form. The party will feel the necessity to organize. Someone will suddenly have the idea: “You think the way I think. You are working over there, I am working here, and we know nothing of each other. That is absurd. It would be better if we worked together, if I did my part and you did yours. Would it not be good if we met every month and talked?” That is an organization. Gradually, a strong organism develops, a party ready to fight for its ideals. A party that does not want that will indeed continue to preach its ideals, but will never bring them into reality.
There are those who say: “Something has to happen. You have to do something. If you want to fight the movie industry, you must build your own theater, even if it at first has only the most primitive equipment. And if you see that the children are being poisoned by what they read in school, you must begin to win children’s souls and give them the antidote.” My reply is simple: You can spend ten years giving the antidote to the poison that is produced by a badly led cultural establishment, but a single decree from the Ministry of Culture can destroy all your work. If you had spent that ten years winning fighters for the movement, the movement would have conquered the Ministry of Culture! Everything else is mere piecework.
The important thing is not to find people who agree with me about every theoretical jot and tittle, but rather that I find people who are willing to fight with me for a worldview. Winning people over to something that I have recognized as right, that is what we call propaganda. At first there is knowledge; it uses propaganda to find the manpower that will transform knowledge into politics. Propaganda stands between the idea and the worldview, between the worldview and the state, between the individual and the party, between the party and the nation. At the moment at which I recognize something as important and begin speaking about it in the streetcar, I begin making propaganda. At the same moment, I begin looking for other people to join me. Propaganda stands between the one and the many, between the idea and the worldview.
As propaganda draws an ever-growing following to the idea, the idea broadens, becomes more flexible. It no longer stays in a few heads, but wants to include everything. At that moment it becomes a comprehensive program. If a movement has brought the idea from the individual to a worldview, building in the end a clear gospel for which each is ready to die, that movement is near victory.
Success is the important thing. Propaganda is not a matter for average minds, but rather a matter for practitioners. It is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches, or speak so that women cry. The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right. We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths. I find them by thinking, or at my desk, anywhere but in a meeting hall. That is where I transmit them. I do not enter the meeting hall to discover intellectual truths, but to persuade others of what I think to be right. I learn methods there that I can use to reach others with what I have found to be right. The speaker or propagandist must first understand the idea. He cannot do that in the middle of making propaganda. He must start with it. Through daily contact with the masses, he learns how to communicate that idea. It is not the task of propaganda to discover knowledge, but to transmit knowledge. It must adjust to those it wishes to reach with that knowledge.
It makes no difference if propaganda is at a high level. The question is whether it reached its goal. My first goal when I came to Berlin was to make the city aware of us. They could love us or hate us, as long as they knew who we were. We have reached that goal. Once we have reached the first goal, we can work on turning hate to love and love to hate, but never to indifference. The battle against indifference is the hardest battle.