Examples of the abuse of ideologies

Basic theses:

  • Religions and secular ideologies were and are repeatedly abused to legitimize force
  • Ideologies tend towards intolerance and the use of force because of their claim to own a monopoly on the truth
  • Ideologies are qualified for the concealment of motivations of force
  • The application of force requires a preparatory and accompanying exposure to ideology as a motivation for the executioners

Examples of abuse:

  • Of religious ideologies

    • Crusades of Christianity (1096 – 1291)

      Basis of wars lead by Christianity was the concept of the” just war” of St. Augustine.  Details see chapter “Just War”. The pretended order of God (“deus lo vult!”) before the first crusade 1095 in Clermont was a pretext used by Pope Urban II to justify the reconquest of Palestine and the holy places of Christianity from the Turkish Seldschuks. The Pope wanted also to consolidate the position of the church as a regional power in central Europe and the reunion of the Western with the Eastern Church, which was then dominated by Byzanz.
      For details see:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Crusade.Six more expeditions to the Near East followed. During the fifth crusade (1228 – 1229),  the Staufer Emperor Friedrich II. reached  an agreement (Peace of Jaffa) with the turkish Sultan about a Christian status of Jerusalem (with muslim enclaves) without having  fought a single battle. It was the only peaceful and successful crusade, though the Ayyubides reconquered Jerusalem already in 1244. The last Christian stronghold Akkon fell in 1291. Later, also military expeditions to other places than the Near East were dubbed as “Crusades”, such as the campaign against the Lithuanians in the 14th century or military actions against religious deviants as the brutal fight against the Albigenses in Southern France during the 13th century. A typical behavior of militant ideologues, who persecute heretics fast and mercilessly, before these can question any dogmas.

      For background and highlights of the crusades see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

    • Islamic Jihad

      An inconsistent definition is found in the sacred texts with two main categories: First, the armed battle against people of another faith; second, the unarmed fight against vice and amorality and namely for the “truth”. The armed fight goes for the extension of the influence of the Islamic religion or of one her groups such as Sunnis or Shiites. Radical groups even try to legitimize terrorist actions and other brutalities with the Jihad concept. Though the Koran denounces suicide as a serious offence, suicide bombers are called martyrs. Presently also by the caliphate of the “Islamic State” (IS), an Islamic fraction associated ideologically with the Sunnis. Terrorist actions are contrary to an open letter of Islamic scholars from October 12th, 2006, which was an answer to a speech of pope Benedict XVI. In this letter the use of force towards civilians of another faith is condemned.For details see:

    • Islamic State (IS)

      This “state”, which calls itself a caliphate, could bring big parts of Syria and the Iraq under its regime of terror during the year 2014 . Ideological basis is a radically conservative interpretation of Islam presented with the claim for the absolute truth. Adherents to other  religious beliefs or agnostics only have the options to convert, to flee, to work as slaves or to be killed. Human rights do not exist for those people who pose as self appointed holy warriors. The ideological base for their berserk behavior is a literal interpretation of the Koran as the “genuine speech of Allah”, which was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed in the 7th century. About the same is assumed for the “Sharia” as the base for Islamic jurisdiction, which also dates back to the 7th century.The ideology is extremely  hostile to women in terms of clothing, sexuality and education. Educated women are in clear contrast to the inferior role attributed to women. This point of view is also shared by conservative Muslims in the Gulf states, in Nigeria (mass abductions of female students by the terror militia Boko Haram, which means “western education is sin”), in Somalia (Al-Shabaab militia) and in Pakistan (attack and threats towards Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai).  Female demands for better education frighten radical islamists, because they feel their traditional, patriarchal world view endangered.The real, underlying motivation of the leaders of the “Caliphate” is to establish a totalitarian state in the Middle East. Religion is only a tool to manipulate naive followers and warriors to unconditionally support the aggressive fight to reach this goal. Logical enemies are: All other states in the Middle East, especially those with different interpretations of Islam (Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, Iran and other Shiite states), Kurds, Christians and  Israel. “Western values” practiced in liberal, constitutional states such as human rights (also for women!), christian and jewish religions, agnosticism, free market economy  are demonized and adherents are dubbed “non believers” and are therefore not seen any more as humans with equal rights.

    • Ultra-right Hindu ideology

      In May 2014 Modi and the Hindu party BJP were elected with a big majority to govern India. Modi is a radical Hindu and has close ties to the national-religious movement Parivar, which claims all power for Hindu nationalism under the slogan “Hindutva”. Adherents to all other religions – Islam, Christianity, Buddhism – roughly one fifth of the total Indian population of 1,3 billion, are seen as second-grade humans, who should be converted by force. We can only hope that this policy will not prevail in India, since it represents to a high degree intolerant and nationalistic theses.

      Nürnberger Nachrichten: 02-09-2015. Gabriele Venzky:
      “Scheitert Modi an sich selbst? Ultrarechte Hindu-Ideologie in Indien führt zu neuer  Gewalt”.

    • Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648)

      Fight for the predominance in Western and Northern Europe between the these acting powers:  The house of Habsburg as the Holy Roman Emperors and as first power of the Catholic Ligue; the Protestant Union supported by the King of France, who wanted to weaken the position of power of Habsburg and of Spain; the kings of Sweden and Denmark, who fought for predominance in Northern Europe. The Peace of Westphalia 1648  basically confirmed religous-politically the Peace of Augsburg of 1555 with a few regulations of details and the recognition of the Reformists as the third confession in the Holy Roman Empire with equal rights. Politically the winners were France, Sweden and the Dutch General States, who were now independent from Spain.For these rather modest results the population in the southwest and northeast of the Empire was decimated by up to 40 percent by the war and epidemics. Some areas required up to 100 years to make up for the devastations. This disastrous war is an example for the mixing of religious-denominational and political power interests and their reckless enforcement.

      For details see:

  •  Abuse of secular ideologies

    The disastrous combination of ideology and dictatorship can also be found with secular ideologies. Hannah Arendt describes the close connection between ideologies and totalitarianism by the examples of the dictatorships of Stalin and Hitler in her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism”, 1951. By means of systematic terror the real world should be “adjusted” to a fictitious ideological world.

    • Communist Class Struggle

      Theoretical Marxism identified “class struggle” as the driving force in history, which would go on until victory for the so called “working class” will be attained and capitalism will have broken down.  To support the final breakthrough of this presumed development, it is necessary and logical, that “class enemies” must be eliminated. Based on this ideology in the Soviet Union during the thirties of the last century  the following “enemies” were liquidated by Stalin as “counterrevolutionaries”: the bolscheviks of the first hour, farmers (Kulaks), bureaucrats, and finally the top brass of the military. There was no need to prove for these “cleansing” operations any individual responsibility or misbehavior. Two targets were attained by these mass murder operations: The ideological cleansing and the intimidation of all opposition to the party line. In this way the power position of Stalin was consolidated. Other regimes, which were based on the communist ideology, proceeded in a similar way, f. i. the “Cultural Revolution” in China, or the forced agricultural economy in Cambodia by the Red Khmer. The theory of a “classless society” proved impracticabel  in political reality, because the respective leaders – the central or local party bosses – allowed themselves privileges and defended them by all means. The socialist planned economy was no success either, since the economy as a dynamic social process cannot be planned down to the last detail. Instead of a planned bottom-up control there was a central authoritarian top-down command, which did not meet the needs of the people. The permanently repeated success messages could of course not change the economic shortcomings.

    • National Socialist Race Struggle

      Instead of the struggle between “classes” the Nazis defined the fight between the “Races”, which was derived from their alleged different levels of  human quality, as an important moving force of History. The racist ideology of the Nazis – and of all their contemporary and later followers – suggests, that the “German-Arian race” ranges on top of the race hierarchy and all other humans below. Jews were not only defined as an ethnic or religious population, but as a separate “race”, which could be positioned at the end of the racial hierarchy. In order to maintain this alleged  racial ranking, a permanent fight  of the superior race against the inferior races is necessary, in particular the “Arians” against the “Jews”. This ideology is not tenable, when confronted with reality. it was prepared already in the 19th century by pseudo-scientific race ideologists and used as a theoretical base for colonialism and antisemitism. Hitler had only to put together these thoughts into a consistent system and to complete it by the totalitarian components of his “Führerstaat” – and there was the Nazi ideology. The theoretical foundation was laid in his programmatic book “Mein Kampf”, published in 1925 (first part) and 1926 (second part).  But as early as 1920 the main topics were formulated in the “25-Punkte-Programm” (25 points programme) of the NSDAP. The consequences are well known.


      During the 19th century racism was constructed as a pseudo-scientific concept by writers such as Arthur Comte de Gobineau, Richard Wagner, Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and others. It was also the basis for antisemitism, which was developed during the same period. Racism and antisemitism did exist of course well before the 19th century, but this period added the pseudo-scientific foundation to the concept, mainly by adding distorted Darwinist and genetic findings.Gobineau (1816 – 1882) published his foremost book “Essai sur l’inégalité des races humaines” during the years 1853 and 1855. One of his theses was the assertion, that the “white race” was superior to all other races. Mixture with other races would however reduce the quality of the white race and should therefore be sharply rejected.
      Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) and his personal environment (the so called “Bayreuther Kreis” ) provided a German translation of Gobineau’s book and took care of its dissemination within the German speaking countries. Wagner however added two important aspects to Gobineau’s concept: The first was the contrast between the “Germanic-Aryan race” and the socially declassified “Jewish race” . The second aspect was the suggestion to “redeem” both by the destruction of the later.  As a symbolic figure of Ahasver, the Jew condemned to restlessly wandering around, Wagner created the person of Kundry in Parsifal, who dies after having been baptized by Parsifal.

      Paul de Lagarde (real name: Paul Bötticher, 1827 – 1891), professor for Oriental Studies, made propaganda for the redemption by a “German Christianity” , the journalist Julius Langbehn (“Rembrandt as an Educator”, 1851 – 1907) by a “German Art”.

      The definition of Jews as a harmful anti-race to the noble “German-ness” indicated the transition from Christian Antijudaism to racial Antisemitism. From then on, Jews were not protected any more by converting to Christianity.

      At the end of the 19th century the “Supergerman” Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855 – 1927) provided a temporary finale in terms of ideological racism/antisemitism by publishing his foremost book “Die Grundlagen des 19. Jahrhunderts” (“Foundations of the 19th Century”). Chamberlain descended from a British family of Naval Officers and was raised by his aunt in France. He preferred biological studies in Geneva, Switzerland to a military career and felt strongly attracted by the German language and culture. Since 1885 he lived in a German speaking environment: Dresden, Vienna, Bayreuth. During this period he was increasingly  influenced by the racial and antisemitic theses of Richard Wagner and was informally appointed “Promotor in chief” of the “Bayreuther Kreis” after Wagner’s death in 1883.
      His book was formally declared a “universal cultural history of Germany”, but under this cover Chamberlain condensed the multiple ideological concepts of Racism and Antisemitism during the 19th century as if under a burning glass. The publication found a strong reception among the German speaking educated classes up to the Emperor Wilhelm II.  In 1923, shortly before Hitler’s failed Munich revolt, the party leader visited the already seriously ill Chamberlain in Bayreuth and made a lasting positive impression on him. Full of enthusiasm Chamberlain dictated a letter, addressed to the “honored and dear Mr. Hitler” . Hitler was described as “the bearer of great hopes” for the German nationality.
      Hitler promptly took advantage of the international reputation of the then well known writer and immediately published Chamberlain’s letter. At the same time he requested the ideological succession to the concepts of Wagner and Chamberlain: “The German-Nationalist Racism and Antisemitism”.  

      For details see:
      Predecessors of the “Foundations……”: P. 25ff.
      Influence of the Wagner/Chamberlain ideology on Hitler: P. 253ff.

    • “Heim ins Reich” (“Home into the Empire”) Ideology

      This ideology is an appropriate tool to extend the sphere of influence of a state. If members of the dominant population of a state also live in other states as minorities a claim is asserted, that the own sphere of control must be extended to the areas inhabited by these minorities to protect them. Hitler argued in this way on behalf of the German minority in Czechoslovakia, of the inhabitants of Danzig in Poland but also of the German speaking Austrians, though the later needed not to be protected. The target was to establish a Great-German-Empire (“Großdeutsches Reich”), in which other populations would not be welcome any more.

      Similar ambitions had the Serbs in the 1990’s, when they wanted to establish with the Serbs living in Bosnia and in Kosovo a “Great-Serbia”. In this process also “ethnic cleansing” techniques were applied. These crimes could only be stopped when the United States and NATO interfered by bombings, passing over the United Nations at the same time.The latest example for this strategy are the Russian interferences in Ukraine, which were also justified by the need to protect Russian populations there. After the annexation of Crimea – with neglect of the international law – the slogan read “New Russia”, which would include besides Crimea also the Eastern part of Ukraine, maybe further parts of countries where Russians live in the future.

    • Ideologization as a motivation for violent actions

      The industrially performed mass murder of European Jews (“Holocaust”) was preceded by mass shootings of Jews in the occupied territories by special forces (“Sondereinsatzgruppen”).  For the industrial extermination a multitude of persons took part in the concentration, transportation and selection of the victims, their guidance into the “shower rooms”, and finally the pouring in of Zyklon B.  A direct contact with the victims did not happen.
      This was different with the special extermination forces of SS and Police. The men of these units confronted the victims, men, women and children face to face before they fired at them.  After the war the question arose, how you could transform quite normal men, policemen and family fathers into mass murderers. The answer is: through long term ideologization with antisemitic slogans. The Jews were permanently defamed as “our misfortune”, the Jewish people as racially inferior and as parasites, who want to destroy the German people and try to gain world domination. There was of course also heavy group pressure and the perspective of doing duty in the front line, if you refused to kill.  But the men of the firing squads could also mean to act out of “patriotic duty” in doing these atrocities.Literature:
      Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah:
      Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault On Humanity, PublicAffairs, New York 2009, ISBN 978-1-58648-769-0

      Welzer, Harald:
      “Täter. Wie aus ganz normalen Menschen Massenmörder werden”,
      Frankfurt/M. 2007.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s