Sunday, August 02, 2015

Mein Kampf as Leadership Text?

Long ago I had subscribed to Harvard Business Review for a time.  They had case studies at the end in which a business situation was described.  Two experts would then comment on this case study to provide advice.  They would both "read between the lines" and double the number of facts in play, then provide a forceful recommendation on how to fix the business situation with a determined program.  The problem was that the expert's advice were usually completely different directions, and sometimes diametrically opposed to each other.  What I learned in the end was that it doesn't matter what decision you make, just that the decision must be presented and executed with bloody minded assurance of the absolute infallibility of the opinions of the leader.  The experts would also introduce additional "facts" which were contradictory, so I suspect that they came up with their solution first, then contrived the "facts" to pave a path from the solution back to the case study.

In Mein Kampf Hitler explains that political party leadership must be of the same sort, but his starting point for comparison is religious dogmatics.  "Religion" is too vague to inspire anyone, but the true strength of a religion lies in its theological specificity backed by authority that is above being questioned.  A suicide bomber never acts on the basis of "religion", but rather on a very specific set of dogmatic principles.  Thus, Hitler devises 25 points which he declares to be a "statement of faith", just as the Communists have their "statement of faith" in the Communist Manifesto.  The fussing over whether a point is correct or not causes people to have second thoughts about giving their life for that principle, so discussion of the points is prohibited.

The starting point Hitler chooses for his dogmatics is that Germans are the Chosen Race, albeit he uses evolutionary notions rather than attributing this to the work of God.  This is forcing a reevaluation of my prejudices with regard to his group.  I had known race was important to them, but not in this sense.  Hitler asserted that it wasn't Christianity that made Germans great but rather Germans who made Christianity and other cultural phenomena superior.  Cultural assimilation was thus deduced to be bad, since it would confuse Germans and they would be more likely to breed outside of their superior genetic line.

Everything else in Hitler's program seems to derive from his first principle of German racial superiority, backed by a ruthless campaign to help Survival of the Fittest do what it is supposed to do without any help:  Those who aren't genetically German can never be German, while physically or mentally deficient Germans should be prohibited from breeding.  Since he saw the genetic competition in mostly military terms, the emphasis was on promoting a militaristic nation.

A puzzle to me after reading this is how there could ever be a neo-NAZI group that isn't German.  Americans are mongrels.  Of course even Mongrels and Marxists can be racist, but as Hitler noted, it wasn't racism, but rather a particular dogmatic form of racism that was the foundation for his cult.  A diffused racism can never achieve focus.

It is important to note that Hitler was always devising his system to be in competition with Marxism.  By insisting on the unity of the German race, he was going into direct conflict with the Marxist who taught division of the German race based on class.  Hitler deduced that talent would be found throughout the German people, and that educators should seek out the best and promote them from whatever class they came from.   The ordinary would receive an ordinary and pragmatic education, but the extraordinary would receive more training.  This formula might be termed, "no talent left behind".

An additional point of interest were Hitler's Storm Troopers.  The communists of his time were in the practice of sending factory goons to non-communist meetings and beating any talented speaker to a bloody pulp.  Hitler's four and a half years on the Western Front didn't incline him to react timidly, so he organized some young men and made sure that they were sufficiently disciplined to deal with the communists according to the only methods the communists could understand:  Their own.


Rummuser said...

I got my MBA from the IIMA which collaborated with the HBS and for two years the focus was on the case study method. And as you point out, the analysis of the case could lead to differing decisions and learning that aspect of uncertainty is itself a major thrust. Moreover, one also learns the application of theory of probability in decision making which too comes in handy, at least theoretically. Eventually, successful managers and entrepreneurs ascribe all kinds of reasons for their success except one major factor, luck. I just prefer to call it Grace.

In West Bengal the Communists ruled for decades using strong arm tactics and succeeded in driving industry out of that state. Mamta Banerjee used their own tactics and has more or less destroyed the left movement in that state. Very like what Hitler did!

Max Coutinho said...


"Hitler was always devising his system to be in competition with Marxism"

But of course he did, after all he admired it deep down; he admired its "effectiveness, merits". We only invest so much time competing with someone/thing we secretly admire, acknowledge to be on our level. Humans are fascinating, aren't they? Your analysis offers an interesting side to it: it is as if Hitler was trying to improve Marx's work. He read it, he identified the flaws and tried to correct them.

"he organized some young men and made sure that they were sufficiently disciplined to deal with the communists according to the only methods the communists could understand: Their own."

Yes, and then he got rid of the Storm Troopers when they became too inconvenient.

Another excellent post, thank you.


Looney said...

@Rummuser, thanks for pointing out the uncertainty angle to this. I also like your term, "Grace", since Christians take this as something dependent on God. Albeit I have had Grace in that certain things failed and I was forced to move on to a happier direction!

Mamata Banerjee looks like quite a lady!

Looney said...

@Max, thanks for the comment. There is still much to learn!