Although the chaos which we found before us in the various branches of public life was very great indeed, the state of dissolution into which German economic life had fallen was still greater. And this was the feature of the German collapse that impressed itself most strikingly on the minds of the broad masses of the people. The conditions that then actually existed have still remained in their memories and in the memory of the German people as a whole. As outstanding examples of this catastrophe we found these two phenomena:
(1) More than six million unemployed.
(2) An agricultural population that was manifestly doomed to dissolution.
The area covered by the German agricultural farms that were on the point of being sold up by forced auction was as large as the whole of Thuringia (more than 8,000 square miles).
In the natural course of events the falling off in production on the one side and the decrease in purchasing power, on the other, must necessarily bring about the disruption and annihilation of the great mass of the middle class also. How seriously this side of the German distress was then felt might subsequently be measured by the fact that I had to ask for full owners for the period of four years especially for the purpose of reducing unemployment and putting a stop to the dissolution of the German agricultural population.
I may further state that in 1933 the National Socialists did not interfere with any activities which were being carried out by others and which at the same time promised success. The Party was called to take over the government of the country at a moment when the possibilities of redeeming the situation in any other way had been exhausted and particularly when repeated attempts to overcome the economic crisis had failed.
After four years from that date I now face the German people and you, gentlemen and members of the Reichstag, to give an account of what has been accomplished. On this occasion I do not think you will withhold your sanction from what the National Socialist Government has done and you will agree that I have fulfilled the promises I made four years ago.
It was not an easy undertaking. I am not giving away any secrets when I tell you that at that time the so-called economic experts were convinced that the economic crisis could not be overcome. In the face of this staggering situation which, as I have said, appeared hopeless to the minds of the experts, I still believed in the possibility of a German revival and particularly in the possibility of an economic recovery. My belief was grounded on two considerations:
(1) I have always had sympathy for those excited people who invariably talk of the collapse of the nation whenever they find themselves confronted with a difficult situation. What do they mean by a collapse? The German people were already in existence before they made any definite appearance in history as it is known to us. Now, leaving out entirely what their pre-historic experiences may have been, it is certain that during the past two thousand years of history, through which that portion of mankind which we call the German People has passed, unspeakable miseries and catastrophes must have befallen them more than once. Famines, wars and pestilences have overwhelmed our people and wreaked terrible havoc among them. It must give rise to unlimited faith in the vital resources of a nation when we recall the fact that only a few centuries ago our German people, with a population of more than eighteen millions, were reduced by the Thirty Years War to less than four millions. Let us also remember that this once flourishing land was pillaged, dismembered and devastated, that its cities were burned down, its hamlets and villages laid waste, that its fields were left uncultivated and barren. Some ten years afterwards our people began again to increase in number. The cities were rebuilt and began to be filled with a new life. The fields were ploughed once more. Songs were heard along the countryside, in concord with the rhythm of that work which brought new life and livelihood to the people.
Let us look back over the development, or at least that part of it known to us, through which our people have passed since those dim historic ages down to the present time. We shall then recognize how puny is all the fuss that these weakling footlers make who immediately begin to talk about the collapse of the economic structure–and hence of human existence–the first moment a piece of printed paper loses its face value somewhere in the world. Germany and the German people have mastered many a grave catastrophe. Of course, we must admit that the right men were always needed to formulate the necessary measures and enforce them without paying any attention to those negative persons who always think that they know more than others. A bevy of parliamentarian weaklings are certainly not the kind of men to lead a nation out of the slough of distress and despair. I firmly believed and was solemnly convinced that the economic catastrophe would be mastered in Germany as soon as the people could be got to believe in their own immortality as a people and as soon as they realized that the aim and purpose of all economic effort is to save and maintain the life of the nation.
(2) I was not an economist, which means that I have never been a theorist during my whole life.
But unfortunately I have observed that the worst theorists are always busy in those quarters where theory has no place at all and where practical life counts for everything. It goes without saying that in the economic sphere and with the passing of time experience has given rise to the employment of certain definite principles and also definite methods of work which have been proved to be productive of good results. But all methods and principles are subject to the time element. To make hard-and-fast dogmas out of practical methods would deprive the human faculties and working power of that elasticity which alone enables them to face changing demands by changing the means of meeting them accordingly and thus mastering them. There were many persons among us who busied themselves, with that perseverance which is characteristic of the Germans, in an effort to formulate dogmas from economic methods and then raise that dogmatic system to a branch of our university curriculum, under the title of national economy. According to the pronouncements issued by these national economists, Germany was irrevocably lost. It is a characteristic of all dogmatists that they vigorously reject any new dogma. In other words, they criticise any new piece of knowledge that may be put forward and reject it as mere theory. For the last eighteen [sic] years we have been witnessing a rare spectacle. Our economic dogmatists have been proved wrong in almost every branch of practical life and yet they repudiate those who have actually overcome the economic crisis, as propagators of false theories and damn them accordingly.
You all know the story of the doctor who told a patient that he could live only for another six months. Ten years afterwards the patient met the physician; but the only surprise which the latter expressed at the recovery of the patient was to state that the treatment which the second doctor gave the patient was entirely wrong.
The German economic policy which National Socialism introduced in 1933 is based on some fundamental considerations. In the relations between economics and the people, the people alone is the only unchangeable element. Economic activity in itself is no dogma and never can be such.
There is no economic theory or opinion which can claim to be considered as sacrosanct. The will to place the economic system at the service of the people, and capital at the service of economics, is the only thing that is of decisive importance here.
We know that National Socialism vigorously combats the opinion which holds that the economic structure exists for the benefit of capital and that the people are to be looked upon as subject to the economic system. We were therefore determined from the very beginning to exterminate the false notion that the economic system could exist and operate entirely freely and entirely outside of any control or supervision on the part of the State. Today there can no longer be such a thing as an independent economic system. That is to say, the economic system can no longer be left to itself exclusively. And this is so, not only because it is unallowable from the political point of view but also because, in the purely economic sphere itself, the consequences would be disastrous.
It is out of the question that millions of individuals should be allowed to work just as they like and merely to meet their own needs; but it is just as impossible to allow the entire system of economics to function according to the notions held exclusively in economic circles and thus made to serve egotistic interests. Then there is the further consideration that these economic circles are not in a position to bear the responsibility for their own failures. In its modern phase of the development, the economic system concentrates enormous masses of workers in certain special branches and in definite local areas. New inventions or a slump in the market may destroy whole branches of industry at one blow.
The industrialist may close his factory gates. He may even try to find a new field for his personal activities. In most cases he will not be ruined so easily. Moreover, the industrialists who have to suffer in such contingencies are only a small number if individuals. But on the other side there are hundreds of thousands of workers, with their wives and children. Who is to defend their interests and care for them? The whole community of the people? Indeed, it is its duty to do so. Therefore the whole community cannot be made to bear the burden of economic disasters without according it the right of influencing and controlling economic life and thus avoiding catastrophes.
In the years 1932/33, when the German economic system seemed definitely ruined, I recognized even more clearly than ever before that the salvation of our people was not a financial problem. It was exclusively a problem of how industrial labour could best be employed on the one side and, on the other, how our agricultural resources could be utilized.
This is first and foremost a problem of organization. Phrases, such as the freedom of the economic system, for example, are no help. What we have to do is use all available means at hand to make production possible and open up fields of activity for our working energies. If this can be successfully done by the economic leaders themselves, that is to say by the industrialists, then we are content.
But if they fail the folk-community, which in this case means the State, is obliged to step in for the purpose of seeing that the working energies of the nation are employed in such a way that what they produce will be of use to the nation, and the State will have to devise the necessary measures to assure this. In this respect the State may do everything; but one thing it cannot do—and this was the actual state of affairs we had to face—is to allow 12.000 million working hours to be lost year after year.
For the folk-community does not exist on the fictitious value of money but on the results of productive labor, which is what gives money its value.
This production, and not a bank or gold reserve, is the first cover for a currency. And if I increase production I increase the real income of my fellow-citizens. And if I reduce production I reduce that income, no matter what wages are paid out.
Members of the Reichstag: Within the past four years we have increased German production to an extraordinary degree in all branches. And the whole German nation benefits by this increase. For it there is a demand today for very many million tons of coal more than formerly, this is not for the purpose of superheating the houses of a few millionaires to a couple of thousand degrees, but rather because millions of our German countrymen are thus enabled to purchase more coal for themselves with their increased income.
By giving employment to millions of German workers who had hitherto been idle, the National Socialist Revolution has brought about such a gigantic increase in German production. That rise in our total national income guarantees the market value of the goods produced. And only in such cases where we could not increase this production, owing to certain conditions that were beyond our control, there have been shortages from time to time; but these bear no proportion whatsoever to the general success of the National Socialist struggle.
The four-year plan is the most striking manifestation of the systematic way in which our economic life is being conducted. In particular this plan will provide permanent employment in the internal circulation of our economic life for those masses of German labour that are now being released from the armament industry.
One sign of the gigantic economic development which has taken place is that in many industries today it is quite difficult to find sufficient skilled workmen. I am thankful that this is so; because it will help to place the importance of the worker as a man and as a working force in its proper light; and also because in doing so–though there are other motives also–we have a chance of making the activities of the party and its unions better understood and thus securing stronger and more willing support.
Seeing that we insist on the national importance of the function which our economic system fulfils, it naturally follows that the former disunion between employer and employee can no longer exist. But the new State will not and does not wish to assume the role of entrepreneur. It will regulate the working strength of the nation only in so far as such regulation is necessary for the common good. And it will supervise conditions and methods of working only in so far as this is in the interests of all those engaged in work. Under no circumstances will the State attempt to bureaucratize economic life. The economic effects that follow from every real and practical initiative benefit the people as a whole. At the present moment an inventor or an economic organizer is of inestimable value to the folk community. For the future the first task of National Socialist education will be to make clear to all our fellow-citizens how their reciprocal worth must be appreciated. We must point out to the one side how there can be no substitute for the German worker and we must teach the German worker how indispensable are the inventor and the genuine business leader. It is quite clear that under the aegis of such an outlook on economic life, strikes and lock-outs can no longer be tolerated. The National Socialists State repudiates the right of economic coercion. Above all contracting parties stand the economic interests of the nation, which are the interests of the people.
The practical results of this economic policy of ours are already known to you. Throughout the whole nation there is a tremendous urge toward productive activity. Enormous works are arising everywhere for the expansion of industry and traffic. While in other countries strikes or lock-outs shatter the stability of national production, our millions of productive workers obey the highest of all laws that we have in this world, namely the law of common sense.
Within these four years which have passed we have succeeded in bringing about the economic redemption of our people; but we realize at the same time that the results of this economic work in town and city must be safeguarded. The first danger that threatens us here is in the sphere of cultural creativeness. And that danger comes from those who are themselves active in that sphere. For our fellow-countrymen who are engaged in artistic and cultural productivity today, or are acting as custodians and trustees of cultural works, have not the necessary intuitive faculties to value and appreciate the ideal products of human genius in this sphere.