The word is apparently the original element of human thought, and therefore of human genius. Today as well, it exercises its inescapable power on everyone whose intelligence has not been overcome by cynicism.
Applicability to truth and falsehood is characteristic of the word; man alone decides which use he will make of it.
The average man, and more certainly the masses, succumbs almost infallibly to the power of the word, unconcerned with its inherent truth. The inherent truth in words is not enough to combat spoken lies, but rather only a new word which can be set against the old. In order for this new word to be believed, the people and masses must hear and understand it. It must come to them and speak their language; its power must be greater than that of the old.
If the arts and the sciences are somehow separated by their mysterious languages that define the borders of each and their jurisdictions, the art of life, politics, works more than ever with the means of creative language in order to win the masses and hold them firmly within the boundaries of a definite conception and worldview. Creative language will occasionally make wide departures from the natural and aesthetic. That has no harmful effect on the masses, whom we must today consider a political reality, even if it does violence at times to the German language. One generally has to be careful when applying the so-called aesthetic yardstick to politics, as it gives no hint of possible outcomes.
As long as Western civilization relied on secret cabinet politics, the polished language of diplomacy served as a sharp and pointed Toledo sword to politics. To cynics, it was the art of saying the opposite of what one thought. In the mouth of an expert, it was a way of protecting oneself from the aims and influences of by the enemy. When the French Revolution opened the age of mass struggle, the gentlemanly games and limited risks of cabinet politics were replaced by all-out struggling movements of masses and nations. The fine old language of diplomacy yielded to the new, blunt, and violent language of political mass propaganda. Political language became a public affair.
Freedom, equality, brotherhood, capitalism, socialism, communism, profit, surplus value, output, international economy, Soviet Germany, nationalism, blood, land, race, self sufficiency, Third Reich — each of these is its own slogan, encompassing the inferences and doctrines of worldview.
They assault the enemy, hammer at him, raise doubt, fear, resistance, and agreement.
Adherents see in them a positive promise of a brighter future, and find in them a spiritual, faith-restoring rescue from blind, purely psychological daily struggles.
Today, the political “layman” faces a puzzling mass of words, a flood of unfamiliar concepts, a mysterious, ordered, deafeningly strong and one-sided view of life that works through the word to recruit and organize.
The major ideological parties make use of the technical aspects of language in their organizational structures. What is a ‘Truf,” a “Staf,” the “Osaf,” an “Uschla?” They are no longer mere abbreviation in a telegraph code (Truppführer, Standartenführer, Oberster S.A. Führer, Untersuchungs- und Schlictungsausschuss), but rather these are new words that have become colloquialisms, a jargon, in the National Socialist Party. Although these words may not be found in the creative works of Luther, Goethe, or Nietzsche, many will remain in our vocabulary. Today, at any event, they exercise their effect in spite of theoretical philology.
Every German is familiar with Hitler’s S.A. In the popular mind, it simply means the brown shirts, “the Hitlers.” The Führer himself answers the question, “What does S.A. mean?” with three definitions: Saalschutzabteilung [meeting hall guards]; Sportabteilung [sports group]; and Sturmabteilung [storm troopers]. This explanation conceals a sense of uncertainty. The S.A. is a myth that cannot be captured in a few words; it can only be felt and experienced. The experience of a generation is summarized in this concept. The brief hard rhythm of this word has become something holy to millions.
The number of such words is legion. Each is propaganda by its very existence, each a form of intellectual bondage. Their very names require agreement or opposition, excite storms of the will, determine our actions.
Philologists and artists will accuse such newly created words of not being an organic part of the language, but rather artificial constructions. That is true of many such expressions. No one, however, will be able to root many of them out from the soul of people. They have become a familiar element of popular speech. The word S.A. is an example. One should on theoretical grounds question the right to existence of any expression which has not achieved popularity, acceptance, and organic union with the language. The right is a question of life. Life has previously created and justified such words in the sciences, arts, and economic and technical occupations. It now does so in politics as well.
There are also constructions that are intentionally designed to be effective and to produce suggestion through their unfamiliarity and which therefore remain strange to popular instinct. An example of such a construction is the communist word “agitprop.” There are “agitprop men,” “agitprop troops,” and “agitprop leaders,” the apostles of Bolshevist revolution under the red star. The word comes from agitation and propaganda.
The letters G.P.U. are just as strange. They are the initials of Gossundarstwennoje Polititschkoje Uprawlenje, the Soviet secret police. We call them the Cheka. They have systematically eliminated all other viewpoints in the country by systematic terror. These letters have become a symbol to the entire world of bloody terror and sinister underground power.
Creative language in political propaganda uses phrases and slogans to establish control. This is not new. The campaign slogans of a movement are and always have been the best propaganda. Anyone who had played a political role in the world was either a master of the word and of creative language, or else fought side by side with men accomplished in these arts.
Christianity conquered the world with its slogan “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The German people did not lose a war against the entire world because of the weakness of their weapons and soldiers, but rather because of the bureaucratic sterility of their leading officials. They were beaten not on the field of battle, but on the field of words. Their soul was crushed. They were never given a slogan to carry into the great struggle, while the enemy carried “against the Huns,” “for democracy,” and “for the League of Nations” onto the field. In politics, the fruitful and creative will always triumph over the unfruitful, the bureaucrats, the mere diplomats. Fichte’s observation that neither the power of the army nor the quality of the weapons decides a battle, but rather the power that leads the spirit to victory is also applicable to the political, military, and economic struggles of our day.