24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 13 December 2012
The first thing to be said about Mein Kampf is that it was not written by Adolf Hitler. In fact, this is the work of Rudolf Hess and Emile Maurice, to whom Hitler dictated his thoughts, observations and ramblings while incarcerated in Landsberg Prison. That said, Mein Kampf is manifestly Adolf Hitler. These are the words of a prodigious orator who felt, ate, drank and sang his politics. The effect on the coherency, if not the cogency, of the book is palpable. Hitler pours himself into this, his every pore oozing contempt for his enemies, real and perceived.
It is important to note that Mein Kampf is actually two books in one. The first book, 'A Reckoning', is broadly autobiographical. The second book, 'The National Socialist Movement', turns to theoretical, philosophical and practical politics. Both parts are of equal interest, with the first part explaining Hitler's view of the political situation and how he arrived at his politics and the second part explaining what, in his view, needs to be done and why.
Hitler's métier is speech rather than written composition. Stylistically Mein Kampf is poor to terrible, even allowing for the inevitable issues with translation. Much of the book is verbose, ponderous, and inward-looking. Nevertheless, Mein Kampf is an impactful work and important reading for anyone who wishes to gain an insight into democratic politics from a perspective rarely-noticed or heard-of. Why? Isn't this book interesting only because of who its 'author' was? No. That is the common attitude to reading Mein Kampf, and in my view, it is wrong-headed. It leads inevitably to a dismissive, even contemptuous attitude, toward the author and his ideas, in so far as they are understood (which is normally poorly). It also explains why many people either claim to have read this book when they haven't or rubbish the book on stylistic grounds alone without giving due consideration to its substantive observations and conclusions. This is more than the work of an infamous dictator. It is also the output of the ideological Demiurge of National Socialism and needs to be seen in those terms if it is to be done justice. My own conclusion is this. Mein Kampf is a book that should be approached and judged on its own merits. That thought itself is revolutionary, I know, and some will find it disgusting, but that is the approach I take here when reviewing this book, as I would with any other book.
Er spinnt? Nein. No, I'm afraid not: Hitler wasn't mad. I wish I could say he was. Going along with the group would be so much easier, but an honest review requires an acknowledgement that however much Hitler may sound neurotic in these passages, in truth this is a book dictated by a perfectly sane, rational, coherent, insightful - even enlightened - human being. I use the word 'sound' purposefully in relation to neurosis because this book does have 'sound'. As I read I heard an inner voice, except it was the clang of Hitler's iron heart beating out his dictated agiprop words. And at times, I could hear him scream. I think Hitler was fundamentally a kinaesthetic politician: an actor, a movie-maker, a sideshow, a stentorian demagogue - a ranter and a raver yes, but a ranter on purpose and a raver by design. It makes sense that reading his magnum opus is a thoroughly kinaesthetic experience.
One of the many ironies of Adolf Hitler is that he understood democracy better than any politician who has ever lived. This book proves it. Hitler understood democracy better than the Greek philosophers, better than the Roman senators, better than the Saxon heptarchs, better than the best political science professor. It's all in here, if you know how to read. Hitler understood intuitively the flaws in what came to be known as the 'bourgeois' democratic model, essentially the system we have now and which we (falsely) call democracy.
Hitler was also profoundly concerned with human freedom. He believed that a strong state was essential to the freedom of people, but note that he interpreted human freedom in racial terms. To Hitler, a people cannot be free unless they are racially-preserved. It is this volk concept, of an ethnically-coherent community, that is central to the National Socialist ideology. Without an understanding of volk, there cannot be an understanding of freedom. To Hitler - and theoretical National Socialists generally - the concept of universal democracy that we seem to love is corrosive of human liberty because it undermines the volk. The strong ethno-state is a precondition of freedom, for it shelters the volk from the outside influences that might threaten the cohesiveness and fecundity of the ethnic group, and thus undermine its very existence.
That is not to say that the National Socialist state must be totalitarian necessarily or even noticeably authoritarian. National Socialism is not the same as fascism, and though the two can be conflated, they follow differing geometries. Fascism is of the quantitative; 'Nazism' is of the qualitative. The official vituperation, the camp vexillology and the coruscating pomp of the Third Reich belonged to the Third Reich, but the National Socialist thesis is wider and deeper than one historical era and one form of application. It is that the strong state not only co-exists with the free society, it is a prerequisite of a free society. What form and manifestations the state assumes in any particular era might be variable, but the National Socialist ideology itself has an existential precept and this must be enacted, necessarily in robust form or it is prospectively meaningless, and worse, ineffectual. It rests in its justification on the notion that the survival of a people as a people is the first baton of freedom, whereas the 'bourgeois' and 'parliamentary' political 'ideologies' that most of us admire unquestioning rest merely on a level of consciousness among the masses of 'materiality' and the immediacy of our own interests. To Hitler, 'Judaic' or 'bourgeois' materialism was profane. In Hitler's eyes, freedom is more than our ability to make everyday choices, and pursue self-gratification, it is about ensuring the right to exist, it is about understanding who we are, in blood and kin terms, it is about genetic cohesion and the integrity of the volk. If we are denied the right to be who we are, then we are not free, we are merely flotsam: consumers, indentured slaves, wage-slaves or whatever is the term of the moment in whatever era of history we occupy.
To acknowledge all this - that there might be a substantive point in amongst the literary disaster area that is Mein Kampf - does leave me feeling a little peripatetic and disoriented, but there is a point there all the same, and a duty of inquiry requires that the validity of Hitler's argument is acknowledged and the matter ought to be explored further.
aber... Hitler links these insightful ideas into a theory that the Aryan race - that is, the white, Caucasian race - is being subjugated by International Jewry. Take this how you will, but it seems to me that the term 'Jew' here could easily metamorphose to 'capitalist'. Whether a metaphor was intended by Hitler and whether the two terms are meant to be synonymous I cannot say, but I do think this is quite possible given the widespread criticism at that time of 'Judaic' forms of capitalism that had infected and permeated through society. Hitler's later persecution of Jews does not necessarily settle the point: the policies of the Third Reich could be opportunistic and, contrary to widespread belief, Mein Kampf was not a blueprint, merely an aggressive statement of intent. At this point, we should reflect on an important but oft-overlooked distinction: between Bolshevism and classical Marxism. One is a distortion of the other. The National Socialist current, by synthesis, borrows significantly from the materialism of classical Marxism (the antithesis), while rejecting Bolshevism entirely. National Socialism, then, can be seen palpably as a consequence of the Enlightenment: the era when the search for a material truth was revived in Europe. The thesis, Nationalism and national sentiment - the embodiments of 'cultural truth' and anti-Enlightenment values - synthesised with the materialism of the 18th./19th. century thinkers into a governing philosophy that catapulted the cultural authoritarianism of feudal Europe into the modern era. If National Socialism had - and has - within it this chrysalis of reason, then arguably Hitler's racial persecution of the Jews need not be explained in anything other than materialist terms, regardless of the hyperbolic superscription to the contrary. Hitler himself was a Judeophobe, that much is beyond doubt, but what is doubtful is that even he had either the psychic or persuasive abilities to convert millions of his kin and countrymen the same way. The point is more vital (and controversial) than it might first appear. If it were to be shown that racial persecution in Nazi Germany was not the work of a disordered mind or a lunatic criminal gang hiding in the Chancellery, but can instead be explained more prosaically, by reference to the random, clumsy dictates of chance and consequence in an environment of extreme social disorder and high-intensity warfare, then the Nazi regime is suddenly cast in a rather different light. There are many within our own political culture who would halt this post dead in its tracks and have me arrested, if they could. They have a vested interest in stopping these questions being asked and silencing the sceptics and questioners. These issues are explosive, so I will now end it here with one last thought: I suspect there are many white British people who privately wonder whether the right side did win that War. The idea of a racist or a National Socialist as a wailing, thuggish, mentally-disordered moron still holds currency, and for the Establishment, it still needs to. Why?
A parting note about the translation and the 'English' editing of the book. The editorial introduction sneers at Hitler, his use of language and his ideas and it's also apparent that the translator is slightly contemptuous of Hitler. Personally I don't mind that. If there is going to be bias, then let it be apparent, or better still, let it be out in the open. However, it's worth bearing in mind that a translation can be manipulated to present ideas in a way that might favour or encourage a certain agenda. It seems to me that the agenda here is to present Hitler, through his "written" words (remember my comment at the start: he didn't actually write this!) as a kind of mad man. I am not convinced that he was a mad man, but what we have here is a useful study in how historians, technicians and literary experts pursue political agendas, consciously or otherwise.
108 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2011
A good political read, very interesting to hear Hitler's rationale contemporaneously. Two things bother me about this book. The edition itself is not the best edited, a few spelling mistakes here and there, frequent enough to be noticable. Second,the back of the book, which sells Hitler as an "evil genius" or "monster". Mein Kampf has its own merits and logic. It is counter-productive to dismiss the book as worthless. Hitler was not a monster, he was a human, and reading this book helps you understand how people are able to act like monsters. Censorship of literature is a hallmark of fascist states, and I think its a shame that there is in some quarters consent that the content of the book is worthless, or that only a Hitler sympathiser would read it. It is as worthwhile as any book written by a political leader would be. Interesting to me was how Hitler provides commentary on his own assumptions. For example, before launching into a tirade against democracy he describes how he came to admire democracy, and how then he came to hate it. He is self-aware of his own motives. I was shocked to hear him admit to being "uncomfortable" with anti-Semitism, being rather liberal at first (he thought Jews were discriminated against for their faith, which he considered intolerant). Then he describes how he came to hate the Jews himself. This also belies the sometimes voiced defence that there was no anti-Semitism in Austria/Germany pre-Nazis. It is interesting to see in his more obviously political statements how he blames Jews for many problems, an obvious form of propaganda. Very obvious in fact, because he describes the power of propaganda in detail. I found this a fascinating read.
Recommended to anyone who has an interest in history, politics, and sociology.
416 of 502 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2006
`My Struggle’ is a book that few people will want to read. This is because it was written by one of the most reviled men in history and because of the way it was written. The impression of Hitler from films and World War II books is simply a negative one: An evil war mongerer responsible for the deaths of millions. Reading his own book is intriguing and this is part of its relatively small appeal. In a similar way that classic books (e.g. Anna Karenina/Dead Souls) begin, after the first few pages you realise you are reading something created by an exceptional mind. However this book is not a beautiful story. This is not like a magazine article tackling a hard subject with little time which gives the astute reader the impression that he or she knows more about the subject than the writer. The first book `A Reckoning’ is partially a story of Hitler’s life, World War One and much of his theories and philosophy. You enter into a strange world of paragraph long sentences, repetition, constantly twisting and turning. Hitler has a go at politicians, policies, parasites e.t.c. and in a classic way is blind to the concept that his ideas might be as blinkered as those he attacks. He believes anything miserable, weak or cowardly must be eradicated, having no compassion or pity for anything that does not conform to his ideals. Hatred is a large part of this book. This book has more hatred in it than a quarter of a mile long oil tanker has oil. There is hatred for Jews, hatred against anyone who is not ulta-nationalistic or anyone not German. The author gives the impression that if the whole world were wiped out except for Germany this in itself would not be a bad thing. The reader might see from Hitler’s poverty, his misery, the huge bitterness and then a World War that this has formed something rather grotesque. It is intriguing however and there are some gems. His thoughts on history, propaganda, ideas about the state and nature are interesting but it’s not long before we are back to hatred of Marxism or an attack against incompetent politicians or greedy businesses or shopkeepers. Hitler’s solution is to have them shot. Very clear is the determination to use force rather than another means. I didn’t understand much of Mein Kampf, there is no attempt to explain anything clearly and you have to read and re-read sentences to get any impression of what exactly he is trying to say. Like a man prodding an angry dog on the other side of a fence, Mein Kampf draws you into some idea and then changes and swirls mid sentence and then modifies to another idea, all to irritate you and wear you out. I almost think Hitler sets out to confuse, as if to say I don’t really know the answer to all this and so I’ll muddy the waters as much as possible. Much of it is incomprehensible. This is not a book that sets out principles and builds them into a unifying theory. Hitler jumps from one idea to the next, there is little continuity and function is always narrowly beaten into second place by style. Mein Kampf does have a certain elegance and style that draws the reader in. Consistent with this book there are also tedious parts and sustained outbursts. The first book is hard going and the second `The National Socialist Movement’ you think will be even harder and true to form it’s not as theoretical or complicated as the first. The second book is less of a story than the first volume and I found it tedious. It shows you the near anarchy of groups struggling for power and describes marches and sinister fights in the beer halls. Here Hitler sets out his ideas for his party. Hitler’s National Socialism is an extremist workers party, a dictatorship with some distorted policies. This was a revolutionary party or perhaps terrorism on a large scale. This is a cold book, sarcastic, verbose, right on some things, wrong on others with a hefty dose of vileness. This book is an unimaginable creation and callous in the extreme. Symptomatic of the world we live in Mein Kamp offers a rare insight into the mind of a talented man who turns to bad things. This multi-sided book gives us a glimpse of why some things are but also leads you into the cul-de-sac of incorrect suppositions, his machinations going on and on exasperatingly. Hitler is religious, nationalistic, the fatherland is far more important than anyone else on Earth, but also strangely moralistic, family orientated, even faintly comical, dragged down into fine details, you won’t forget the huge impression of reading this book.
Some truth in there
Vile racism, nationalism and extremism
Very poorly written
Too long for the number of ideas, leading to much repetition
Ideas that are wrong