Wilhelm Reich: The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Part One

English translation by THEODORE P. WOLFE
By Wilhelm Reich
Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, 1925. 132 pp.
Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, 1927. 206 pp.
Sexpol Verlag, 1932. 152 pp.
Sexpol Verlag, 1933. 288 pp.
2. Auflage, Sexpol Verlag, 1933. 292 pp.
Sexpol Verlag, 1934. 60 pp.
Abhandl. zur personellen Sexualökonomie, Nr. 3. Sexpol Verlag, 1935. 61 pp.
2. Auflage, Sexpol Verlag, 1935. 155 pp.

2. Auflage, Sexpol Verlag, 1936. 250 pp.
Abhandl. zur personellen Sexualökonomie, Nr. 4. Sexpol Verlag, 1937. 55 pp.
Abhandl. zur personellen Sexualökonomie, Nr. 5. Sexpol Verlag. 1937. 50 pp.
Klinische und experimentelle Berichte, Nr. 6. Sexpol Verlag, 1938. 205 pp.
Klinische und experimentelle Berichte, Nr. 7. Sexpol Verlag, 1939. 30 pp.
Orgone Institute Press, 1942. xxxvi + 368 pp.
Orgone Institute Press, 1945. xxii + 328 pp.
Orgone Institute Press, 1945. xxvii + 273 pp.
Third, revised and enlarged edition
Translated from the German Manuscript

NEW YORK . 1946
First Edition, 1933
Second Edition, 1934
First English Edition, 1946

1. The divergence of ideology and economic situation
2. Economic and ideological structure of German society between 1928 and
3. The problem of mass psychology
4. The social function of sexual suppression
1. Führer and mass structure
2. Hitler’s origin
3. On the mass psychology of the lower middle classes
4. Family Fixation and nationalistic feeling
5. Nationalistic self-confidence
6. The middle-class adaptation of the industrial workers
1. Its content
2. The objective and subjective functions of ideology
3. Racial purity, blood poisoning, and mysticism
1. The interest in the church
2. The fight against “Kulturbolschewismus”
3. The appeal to mystical feeling
4. The goal of the cultural revolution in the light of the fascist reaction
1. The three basic elements of religious feeling
2. The anchoring of religion through sexual anxiety
3. Healthy and neurotic self-confidence

1. Theory and practice
2. The fight against mysticism to date
3. Sexual happiness versus mysticism
4. The individual eradication of the mystical feeling
5. Objections to sex-economic practice
6. The unpolitical individual
1. What goes on in the masses of people?
2. The “socialist longing”
3. The “withering away of the state”
4. The program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1919
5. “The introduction of Soviet democracy”
6. The development of the authoritarian state apparatus from rational social
7. The social function of state capitalism
8. The biosocial functions of work. The problem of “voluntary work
1. Give responsibility to vitally necessary work!
2. The biological miscalculation in the human struggle for freedom
3. Work democracy versus politics. The natural social forces for the mastery
of the emotional plague
Extensive and conscientious therapeutic work on the human character has taught me that, in judging human
reactions, we have to take into account three different layers of the biopsychic structure. As I have shown in my
book, C
, these layers are autonomously functioning representations of social development.
In the superficial layer, the average individual is restrained, polite, compassionate and conscientious. There would
be no social tragedy of the animal, man, if this superficial layer were in immediate contact with his deep natural
core. His tragedy is that such is not the case. The superficial layer of social cooperation is not in contact with the
biological core of the person, but separated from it by a second, intermediary character layer consisting of cruel,
sadistic, lascivious, predatory and envious impulses. This is the Freudian “unconscious” or “repressed”; in sex-
economic language, it is the sum total of the “secondary impulses.” Orgone biophysics has shown that the
Freudian unconscious,
the antisocial element in the human structure, is a secondary result of the
repression of
primary biological impulses.
If one penetrates through this second, perverse and antisocial layer, one arrives
regularly at a third, the deepest layer, which we call the
biological core.
In this deepest layer, man, under
favorable social conditions, is an honest, industrious, cooperative animal capable of love and also of rational

hatred. In character-analytic work, one cannot penetrate to this deep, promising layer without first eliminating the
false, sham-social surface. What makes its appearance when this cultivated mask falls away, however, is not
natural sociality, but the perverse antisocial layer of the character.
As a result of this unfortunate structure, every natural social or libidinous impulse from the biological core must,
on its way to action, pass the layer of the perverse secondary impulses where it becomes deflected. This
deflection changes the originally social [viii] character of the natural impulse into a perverse impulse and thus
inhibits any natural life manifestation.
We can now apply our insights into human structure to the social and political field. It is not difficult to see that
the diverse political and ideological groups in human society correspond to the various layers of human character
structure. We do, of course, not follow idealistic philosophy in its belief that this human structure is eternal and
After social conditions and changes have formed the original biological needs into the character
structure, the latter, in the form of ideologies, reproduces the social structure.
Since the decline of the primitive work-democratic organization, the biological core of man has remained
without social representation. That which is “natural” in man, which makes him one with the cosmos, has found
its genuine expression only in the arts, particularly in music and painting. Until now, however, it has remained
without any essential influence upon the form of human society, if by society is meant not the culture of a small
rich upper crust but the community of all people.
In the ethical and social ideals of liberalism we recognize the representation of the superficial layer of the
character, of self-control and tolerance. The ethics of this liberalism serve to keep down “the beast” in man, the
second layer, our “secondary impulses,” the Freudian “unconscious.” The natural sociality of the deepest, nuclear
layer is alien to the liberal. He deplores the perversion of human character and fights it with ethical norms, but the
social catastrophes of this century show the inadequacy of this approach.
All that which is
revolutionary, all genuine art and science stems from the natural biological nucleus.
Neither the genuine revolutionary nor the artist or scientist has been able thus far to win over and lead masses or,
if so, to keep them in the realm of the life interests.
In contradistinction to liberalism, which represents the superficial character layer, and to genuine revolution,
which repre-[ix]sents the deepest layer, fascism represents essentially the second character layer, that of the
secondary impulses.
At the time when this book was originally written, fascism was generally regarded a “political party” which, like
any other “social group,” was an organized representation of a “political idea.” According to this concept, the
fascist party “introduced” fascism by force or by “political manoeuvre.”
Contrary to this concept, my medical experience with individuals from all kinds of social strata, races,
nationalities and religions showed me that “fascism” is only the politically organized expression of the average
human character structure, a character structure which has nothing to do with this or that race, nation or party but
which is general and international. In this characterological sense,
“fascism” is the basic emotional attitude of
man in authoritarian society, with its machine civilization and its mechanistic-mystical view of life.
It is the mechanistic-mystical character of man in our times which creates fascist parties, and not vice versa.
Even today, as a result of fallacious political thinking, fascism is still being considered a specific national
characteristic of the Germans or the Japanese. The stubborn persistence of this fallacy is due to the fear of
recognizing the truth: fascism is an
phenomenon which permeates all organizations of human
society in all nations. This conclusion is confirmed by the international events of the past 15 years.
From this first fallacy all other misinterpretations follow logically. To the detriment of genuine endeavors for
freedom, fascism is still regarded as the dictatorship of a small reactionary clique. My character-analytic
experience, however, shows that there is today not a single individual who does not have the elements of fascist
feeling and thinking in his structure. Fascism as a political movement differs from other reactionary parties in that
it is
supported and championed by masses of people.
I am fully conscious of the responsibility involved in such
statements. I could only wish, in the interest of this battered world, that the [x] working masses had an equal

realization of their responsibility for fascism.
One has to distinguish ordinary militarism from fascism. Germany under the Kaiser was militaristic, but not
Since fascism, always and everywhere, appears as a movement which is supported by the masses of people, it
also displays all the traits and contradictions present in the average character structure: Fascism is not, as is
generally believed, a purely reactionary movement; rather, it is a mixture of
emotions and
social ideas.
If, by being revolutionary, one means rational rebellion against intolerable social conditions, if, by being radical,
one means “going to the root of things,” the rational will to improve them, then fascism is
True, it may have the aspect of revolutionary emotions. But one would not call that physician revolutionary who
proceeds against a disease with violent cursing but the other who quietly, courageously and conscientiously
studies and fights the causes of the disease. Fascist rebelliousness always occurs where fear of the truth turns a
revolutionary emotion into illusions.
In its pure form, fascism is the sum total of all
reactions of the average human character. To the
narrow-minded sociologist who lacks the courage to recognize the enormous role played by the irrational in
human history, the fascist race theory appears as nothing but an imperialistic interest or even a mere “prejudice.”
The violence and the ubiquity of these “race prejudices” show their origin from the irrational part of the human
character. The race theory is not a creation of fascism. No: fascism is a creation of race hatred and its politically
organized expression. Correspondingly, there is a German, Italian, Spanish, Anglo-Saxon, Jewish and Arabian
The race ideology is a true biopathic character symptom of the orgastically impotent individual.
The sadistic perverse character of the race ideology is also seen in the attitude toward religion. Fascism, we are
told, is the [xi] arch-enemy of religion, and a regression to paganism. On the contrary, fascism is the extreme
expression of religious mysticism. As such it appears in a specific social form. Fascism is based on that religiosity
which stems from sexual perversion; it changes the masochistic character of the old patriarchal religions into a
sadistic religion. It takes religion out of the other-world philosophy of suffering and places it in the sadistic
murder in this world.
Fascist mentality is the mentality of the subjugated “little man” who craves authority and rebels against it at the
same time. It is not by accident that all fascist dictators stem from the milieu of the little reactionary man. The
captains of industry and the feudal militarist make use of this social fact for their own purposes. A mechanistic
authoritarian civilization only reaps, in the form of fascism, from the little, suppressed man what for hundreds of
years it has sown in the masses of little, suppressed individuals in the form of mysticism, top-sergeant mentality
and automatism. This little man has only too well learned the way of the big man and now gives it back, enlarged
and distorted. The Fascist is the top-sergeant type in the vast army of our sick civilization. One cannot with
impunity beat the tom-tom of high politics before the little man. The little top-sergeant has outdone the
imperialistic general in
in martial music, in goose-stepping, in giving orders and obeying them, in the
deadly fear of thinking, in diplomacy, strategy and tactics, in uniformed strutting and in medals. In all these
things a Kaiser Wilhelm appears as a poor bungler compared with Hitler. When a “proletarian” general covers his
chest with medals, on
sides, and from the shoulders to the belt, he demonstrates the little man trying to outdo
the “real” great general.
One must have thoroughly studied the character of the suppressed little man and must have learned to see things
as they take place behind the facade, if one is to understand the forces on which fascism is based.
In the rebellion of the masses of abused people against the
niceties of a
liberalism (I do not mean
genuine lib-[xii]eralism and genuine tolerance) the character layer of the secondary impulses was expressed.
One cannot make the Fascist harmless if, according to the politics of the day, one looks for him only in the
German or Italian, or the American or the Chinese; if one does not look for him
in oneself;
if one does not know
the social institutions which hatch him every day. One can beat fascism only if one meets it
with a well-grounded knowledge of the life processes. One cannot equal it in politics, in diplomacy or

concentrated in the hands of a few. The development of a world economy was sharply contradicted by the tariff
system of national states; capitalist economy attained hardly half of production capacity and it had clearly shown
its anarchic character. The majority of the working population of highly industrialized countries lived in misery;
about fifty million people were unemployed in Europe alone; hundreds of millions of working individuals lived
on a starvation level. But the “expropriation of the expropriators” failed to materialize and, contrary to
expectations, at the crossroads between “socialism and barbarism,” the development was in the direction of
barbarism. That is, there was an international growth of fascism and a corresponding weakening of the workers’
movement. Those who still hoped that the coming second world war would, with certainty, have a revolutionary
outcome, those who, in other words, depended on the masses to turn the weapons they were going to get against
the inner enemy, had not followed the development of the new war techniques. It did not seem unlikely that in the
next war an arming of the masses would not take place, and that military measures would be taken against the
unarmed masses in the large industrial centers, executed by a few selected and dependable war technicians.
Therefore, a re-orientation in thinking was a necessary prerequisite for a new revolutionary practice. The second
world war confirmed these expectations.
From a rational point of view, one would expect the pauperized masses of workers to develop a sharp
consciousness of their social situation, to develop a will to eliminate their social misery. Similarly, one should
expect the working individual to rebel against his social misery; one would expect him to say to himself: “I am a
responsible worker. It is on me and people like myself that the weal and woe of society depend. I assume myself
the responsibility for the work.” In that case, the thinking (the “consciousness”) of the worker would be consistent
with his social situation. The Marxists called this “class consciousness.” We shall call it “professional
consciousness” or “consciousness of social responsibility.” The
between the social position of the
working masses on the one hand and their consciousness of it on the other hand means that the working masses,
instead of improving their social situation, worsen it. It was exactly the pauperized masses who carried fascism,
the ultimate in political reaction, to power.
The problem here is that of the role of ideology, the emotional attitude of the masses as a historical factor, the
retroaction of the ideology on the economic base.
” If the economic misery of broad masses of people did not
lead to revolutionary tendencies in the sense of the social revolution; if, on the contrary, the economic crisis led to
ideologies which were contrary to rational revolutionary thinking; then, in Marxist terms, the ideological
development of the masses in these critical years inhibited the “unfolding of the forces of production” and
blocked the “revolutionary solution of the conflict between the productive forces of monopolistic capitalism and
its methods of production.”
The class structure in Germany reveals the following picture:
According to Kunik: “Versuch einer Feststellung der sozialen Gliederung der deutschen Bevölkerung,”
Die Internationale
1928, compiled by Lenz:
“Proletarische Politik,” Internationaler Arbeiterverlag, 1931.
With family
(in millions)
Industrial workers
Urban middle classes

Small farmers
Bourgeoisie (including land
owners and large farm-
Strata of the urban middle classes:
in thousands
Lower strata of persons in small enterprises (home
industries, tenant farms, workshops with less than
3 employees)
Employees in small industries with 3 or more em-
Higher employees and officials
Professional people and students
Small investors
Workers’ strata:
Workers in industry, transportation, business, etc.
Agricultural workers
Home workers
Domestic servants
Recipients of social security benefits
Employees (earning less than 250 marks per month)
Minor officials (including pensioners)
Middle strata in agriculture:
Small farmers and tenants (with less than 12 acres
of land)
Farmers with 12 to 120 acres
These figures are taken from the German census of 1925. It has
Called “Proletarians” by the Marxists.
[9] to be remembered that they reflect the socio-economic and not the ideological strata, which were quite
then, Germany in 1925 comprised:
With family
40.7 millions
Middle classes
19.7 millions
structure, however, was, according to a rough calculation, the following:
(in industry, business,
transportation, agri-
culture, etc.)

Middle classes
Despite middle class votes for Leftist parties and workers’ votes for Rightist parties, it is striking that
the election
returns of 1932 correspond to the ideological stratification of 1925:
Communists and Social Democrats together
had between twelve and thirteen million votes, the NSDAP and the German Nationalists together between
nineteen and twenty million. This means that in terms of practical politics,
not the economic but the ideological
was the decisive factor.
The political role of the lower middle classes was much more important
than had been assumed.
It was during the rapid decline of German economy between 1929 and 1932 that the NSDAP gained by leaps
and bounds: from 800,000 votes in 1928 to 6,400,000 in the fall of 1930; 13,000,-000 in the summer of 1932; and
17,000,000 in January 1933. According to Jäger (
Roter Aufbau,
October 1930) the 6,400,000 National Socialist
votes in 1930 already contained the votes of about 3,000,000 working people; of these, about sixty to seventy per
cent were employees and thirty to forty per cent industrial workers.
The problem expressed in this sociological process was, as far as I know, most clearly comprehended by Karl
Radek, who wrote after the first upsurge of the NSDAP (
Roter Aufbau,
October 1930):
Nothing like it is known in the history of politics, particularly in a country with age-old political differentiations where e
very new
must put up a hard struggle to exist alongside the old established ones. Nothing is more significant than the fact that
nothing was said, in the conservative as well as the Socialist literature, about this party which now occupies the next but firs
t place in
German political life. It is a party without a history which arises suddenly in German political life as an island suddenly appe
ars in
the middle of the ocean due to volcanic forces.
We cannot doubt the fact that this island has its history and inner logic.
The outcome of the Marxist alternative, “Sinking back into barbarism” or “Advance to socialism” is determined
by whether the ideological structure of the ruled masses coincides with their economic position or diverges from
it; be it in the form of passive submission to exploitation as in the Asiatic societies or in the form of a contrary
development of the ideology of the suppressed and their economic position as is the case in the Germany of
The basic problem then is,
what causes this divergence between economic position and psychological mass
We have to comprehend the essence of the mass-psychological structure and its relation to the
economic base from which it derived. In order to do this, we have to rid ourselves, first of all, of those concepts of
vulgar Marxism which bar the way to a comprehension of fascism. They are, essentially, the following:
Vulgar Marxism schematically separates economic existence from social existence as a whole and contends that
human “ideology” and “consciousness” are
determined by the economic conditions.
In doing so, it arrives at a mechanistic antithesis of economy and ideology, of “base” and “superstructure.” It
considers ideology dependent, schematically and one-sidedly, on economic conditions, and overlooks the
dependence of economic development on ideology. For this reason, the problem of the “retroaction of the
ideology on the economic base” remains inaccessible to vulgar Marxism. True, it speaks of the “lag of the
subjective factor” in the sense of Lenin, but it cannot do anything about it practically, for the following reason: it
explains this lag one-sidedly from the standpoint of the [11] economic situation, without looking to ideology for
the explanation of contradictions in the economy, and without comprehending ideology as a historical force.
In fact, vulgar Marxism militates against a comprehension of the structure and the dynamics of ideology, by
brushing it aside as “psychology” which is called “non-Marxist.” It leaves the problem of the subjective factor in
history, the so-called “psychic life,” to the metaphysical idealism of political reaction, to a Gentile and a
Rosenberg, the people who claim that the “spirit” and the “soul”
make history and who have the greatest
success with their claims.
The neglect of
aspect of sociology was pointed out by Marx himself in his criticism of 18th century
materialism. The vulgar Marxist considers psychology in itself as a metaphysical system. He neglects to separate

the metaphysical character of reactionary psychology from its basic elements which were disclosed by a
revolutionary psychological search and which have to be developed. Instead of criticising productively, he simply
repudiates; he considers himself as a “materialist” when he throws out as “idealistic” such facts as “instinct,”
“need” or “psychological process.” In doing so, he gets himself into the greatest difficulties and achieves only
failure, for his political practice forces him constantly to use practical psychology; he cannot avoid talking about
“human needs,” “revolutionary consciousness,” the “will to strike,” etc. The more he repudiates psychology, the
more he himself practises metaphysical psychologism and worse, empty Couéism: he will explain a historical
situation by a “Hitler psychosis” or will tell the masses they should trust in him, that things are going ahead in
spite of everything, that the revolution cannot be beaten, etc. Finally he becomes a dispenser of illusory
encouragement without even saying anything factual about existing conditions and without comprehending what
has happened. He will never understand such facts as that political reaction does not know a hopeless situation or
that an economic crisis may lead to barbarism as well as to social freedom. Instead of deriving theory [12] and
action from social reality, he changes reality, in his phantasy, to conform with his wishes.
Our political psychology can be nothing but the investigation of this “subjective factor of history,” of the
character structure of the people of a given epoch, and of the ideological structure of their society. Unlike
reactionary psychology and psychologistic economism, it does not set itself against Marxist sociology but fits into
it in a specific place.
The Marxist dictum that economic conditions transform themselves into ideology, and not vice versa, ignores
two questions: First,
this takes place, what happens in the “human brain” in this process; and second, what is
the retroactive effect of this “consciousness” (we shall speak of
psychological structure
) on the economic
process? This gap is bridged by character-analytic psychology which uncovers that process in psychic life which
is determined by the conditions of economic existence. It comprehends the “subjective factor” which the Marxist
does not understand. Political psychology thus has a strictly circumscribed task. It cannot explain, say, the
development of class society or the capitalist mode of production. (If it tries, the result is always reactionary
nonsense, such as the explanation that capitalism is caused by human greed). But political psychology alone—not
social economics—can make us understand the human character structure of a given epoch, how the individual
thinks and acts, how he reacts to the conflicts of his existence and how he tries to manage them. True, it
investigates the individual only. But if it specializes in the study of those psychological processes which any
given groups, classes or professions have in
and which are characteristic of them, eliminating the
individual differences between them, it becomes
mass psychology.
In so doing, it takes its starting point from Marx himself:
Our starting point is not arbitrary assumption or dogma, but reality . . . It is the
actual individuals, their actions and their material
living conditions,
the pre-existing as well as those brought about by their actions.
Man is himself the basis of his material production as well as of any other.
Thus, all conditions which affect man, the subject
of production, also modify, more or less, all his functions and activities as the creator of material wealth, of commodities. It
can be
shown, in fact,
that all human conditions and functions whatsoever influence material
production more or less decisively.
, 1905, I, p. 388f.)
Thus, we say nothing new, nor are we “revising Marx” as we have been so frequently accused of doing. “
human conditions”—that includes the conditions of the work process as well as the most personal and most
private achievements of human thinking and emotional life. That is, it also includes
the sexual life of
the women,
adolescents and children, the sociological investigation of those conditions and its application to new
sociological problems.
Hitler was able to make history with a certain kind of those “human conditions,” history
which cannot be laughed off. Marx was not able to develop a sexual sociology because at his time there was no
sexology. It is a matter now of incorporating not only economic but also sex-economic conditions in the structure

of sociology and of destroying the hegemony of the mystics and metaphysicists in this field.
If an ideology has a “retroactive effect on the economic process” it must have become a material force. If an
ideology becomes a material force as soon as it takes hold of the masses, then we must ask: how does this take
place? The answer to this question must also contain the answer to the question of reactionary mass psychology,
of the problem of how to eradicate the “Hitler psychosis.”
The ideology of any given society not only reflects the economic process of the society, it also has the function
anchoring the economic process in the psychological structure of the individual members of the society.
Man is
influenced by the conditions of his existence in a twofold manner: directly by the immediate influence of his
economic and social position, and indirectly by the ideological structure of his society. For this reason, he de-
Italics are mine. W.R.
[14]velops, inevitably, a contradiction in his structure, a contradiction which corresponds to the contradiction
between the influence of the economic position and that of the ideological structure of society. The worker, for
example, is exposed to the influence of his work situation as well as to that of the general social ideology. Since
the people in various strata are not only the objects of these influences, but also reproduce them as active
individuals, their thinking and their actions must be as contradictory as the society from which they stem.
molding human psychological structure, social ideology not only reproduces itself in the people. More
importantly, it becomes a material force in the form of the altered human structure, with its contradictory
thinking and acting.
This and
this makes possible the retroaction of social ideology on the economic base
from which it stemmed. The “retroaction” loses its seemingly mystical or psychologistic character when one
comprehends it as the functioning of the character structure of socially active individuals. As such, it becomes the
object of scientific character research. The finding that the “ideology” changes more slowly than the economic
basis, that there is a lag between them, becomes now understandable. The character structures which correspond
to a certain historical situation are formed in early childhood and are much more conservative than the forces of
technical production. It follows that, as time goes on, the
psychological structures lag behind the development of
the social conditions from which they stemmed and which progress rapidly. Therefore, they come into conflict
with the later forms of living.
This is the fundamental essence of so-called “tradition,” that is, the conflict between
the old and the new social situation.
We have seen that the economic and the ideological situations of the masses are not necessarily congruent; more
than that, there may be a considerable divergence between the two. The economic situation does not express itself
directly and immediately in political consciousness. Otherwise, the social revolution would have occurred long
ago. Corresponding to this divergence of social posi-[15]tion and social consciousness, the examination of society
must be of a twofold nature. Notwithstanding the fact that the structure derives from economic conditions, it must
be examined by a different method. To the economic situation, we have to apply the method of socio-economic
investigation, to the character structure that of biopsychological research. To use a simple example: If workers
who are starved because of low wages strike, or steal bread, their actions result directly from their economic
situation. The striking or the stealing out of hunger need no further psychological explanation. The ideology and
the action are appropriate to the economic pressure. Economic situation and ideology are congruent. In such
cases, reactionary psychology attempts to show the allegedly irrational motives of the striking or stealing; such
attempts always lead to reactionary explanations.
In social psychology, the question is exactly the reverse: What is to be explained is not why the starving
individual steals or why the exploited individual strikes, but why the majority of starving individuals do
and the majority of exploited individuals do
strike. Socio-economics, then, can satisfactorily explain a social
phenomenon when human thinking and acting serve a rational purpose, when they serve the satisfaction of needs

and directly express the economic situation. It fails, however, when human thinking and acting
economic situation, when, in other words, they are
Vulgar Marxian and economism, systems which
repudiate psychology, are at a loss when confronted with this contradiction. The more mechanistic and
economistic the orientation of a sociologist, the less he knows human structure, the more will his mass
propaganda take the form of superficial psychologism. Instead of comprehending and trying to eliminate the
psychological contradiction in the mass individual, he will engage in Couéism or explain the fascist movement as
a “mass psychosis.” Since the economistic sociologist neither knows nor acknowledges psychic processes, “mass
psychosis,” to him, does not mean, as it does to us, a gigantic social fact of historical significance, but nothing but
a socially insignificant, negligible item.
[16] The province of mass psychology, then, begins precisely at the point where the
explanation fails. Does this mean an antithesis between mass psychology and socio-economics? No. For the
irrational thinking and behavior of the masses which contradicts the existing socio-economic situation is itself the
result of an
socio-economic situation. It has been customary to explain the inhibition of social
consciousness by so-called tradition. But thus far nobody has taken the trouble to find out what “tradition” is,
what psychological processes it reflects. Economism has hitherto overlooked the fact that the important question
is not that the working individual has consciousness of social responsibility; that goes without saying. The
question is,
what inhibits the development of the consciousness of responsibility?
Ignorance of the character structure of the human masses again and again results in sterile explanations. The
Communists, for example, explained the rise of fascism by the faults of Social-Democratic politics. Such an
explanation led into a blind alley, for it was an essential characteristic of Social Democracy to spread illusions.
Such an explanation could not lead to a new policy. Similarly unproductive were such explanations as that
political reaction had, in the form of fascism, “misguided” or “hypnotized” the masses. To do that is, and always
will be, the function of fascism. Such explanations are unproductive because they do not point a new way.
Experience shows that no “disclosures” of this kind will convince the masses, that, in other words, the socio-
economic explanation alone is insufficient. Would it not be logical to ask,
what is it in the masses themselves
made it impossible for them to recognize the function of fascism? The typical formulae, “The workers
realize . . .” or “We did not understand . . .” are of no help. Why did the workers fail to realize and why did we not
understand? Another sterile explanation formed the basis of the discussion between the Left and the Right wings
in the workers’ movement: The Right contended that the workers were not willing to fight; the Left countered by
saying that it was not so, that the workers were revolutionary and the contention of [17] the Right was a betrayal
of the revolution. Both statements, with their either-or alternatives, were mechanistically rigid. What would have
corresponded to reality would have been the finding that the average worker is neither unequivocally
revolutionary nor is he unequivocally conservative. Rather, he is in a conflict: on the one hand, his psychological
structure derives from his social position, which tends to make him revolutionary, on the other hand, from the
total atmosphere of authoritarian society, which tends to make him conservative. Thus, his revolutionary and his
conservative tendencies are in conflict with each other.
It is of decisive importance to see this conflict and to find out in what concrete forms the reactionary and the
revolutionary elements operate in the worker. The same applies, of course, to the member of the middle classes.
That he rebels against the “system” in a crisis, is immediately understandable. What is not understandable socio-
economically is the fact that he, although already pauperized, nevertheless is afraid of progress and becomes
extremely reactionary. He, too, labors under a conflict between rebellious feelings and reactionary ideology.
A war, for example, is not satisfactorily explained sociologically by the specific economic and political factors
which lead to its actual outbreak, factors like the German designs in 1914 on the ores of Briey and Longy, the
Belgian industrial areas, and Asiatic colonies, or, in the second world war, the interests of Hitler’s imperialism in
the oil wells of Baku, the industries of Czechoslovakia, etc. True, the economic interests of German imperialism
were the
factor. But we must also consider the
basis of world wars and ask
ourselves: What produced the
mass-psychological soil
on which an imperialistic ideology could grow and could

be put into practice, in strict contradiction to the peace-loving mentality of a German population uninterested in
foreign politics? The “betrayal of the leaders of the Second International” is no satisfactory answer. Why, one
must ask, did millions of workers, with a liberal and anti-imperialistic attitude, let themselves be betrayed? Fear
of the consequences of refusal to take up arms could be the motive [18] only in a small minority. If one had
witnessed the mobilization of 1914, one knew that the working population showed diverse attitudes. There was a
conscious rejection on the part of a minority; a peculiar submission to fate or an indolence; and violent
enthusiasm not only in the middle classes but also in masses of industrial workers. The indolence of many as well
as the enthusiasm of many others was undoubtedly basic in the mass-psychology of the war. This mass-
psychological function in both world wars can be comprehended only by understanding that
the imperialist
ideology changed the structure of the working masses concretely in the direction of imperialism.
catastrophes cannot be simply explained by such terms as “war psychosis” or “mass obfuscation.” To hold the
masses accessible to simple obfuscation would mean holding them in contempt. The point is that
every social
order creates for itself in the masses of its members that structure which it needs for its main purposes.
this mass-psychological structure, no war would be possible. There is an important relationship between the
economic structure of a society and the mass-psychological structure of its members. It is not merely that the
ruling ideology is the ideology of the ruling class. What is more important for the solution of practical problems
is the fact that the
in the economic structure of a society are also anchored in the mass-
psychological structure of its members. Otherwise, the fact could not be understood that the economic laws of a
society can have practical effects only through the activity of the masses who are subject to them.
The German freedom movements, it is true, knew about the importance of the so-called “subjective factor in
; what
“In any given epoch, the ideals of the ruling class are the ruling ideas. That is, that class which is the ruling material powe
r of society is also the ruling
ideological power. That class which has at its disposal the means for material production has, by that very fact, also at its di
sposal the means of ideological
production; therefore it also rules the ideas of those who lack the means of ideological production. The ruling ideas are nothin
g but the ideological expression
of the existing material conditions, the conditions which made that one class the ruling one, the ideas of its ruling.”—Marx.
Marx, unlike mechanical materialists, comprehended, in principle, man as the subject of history, and Lenin developed especially
this aspect of Marxism.
[19] was lacking, however, was
the comprehension of irrational behavior,
in other words,
of the divergence of
economy and ideology.
We must explain how it was possible that mysticism was victorious over scientific
sociology. This we cannot do unless we approach the problem in such a fashion that our explanation
spontaneously points the way to a new program of action. The discovery of the fact that the working individual is
neither unequivocally reactionary nor unequivocally revolutionary but in a conflict between reactionary and
revolutionary tendencies, must of necessity lead to a practical program which opposes the reactionary
psychological forces with revolutionary forces. Any kind of mysticism is reactionary, and the reactionary
individual is a mystic. Trying to laugh off mysticism as “obfuscation” or “psychosis,” without explaining it, does
not produce any measures against mysticism. If, on the other hand, one comprehends mysticism correctly, an
antidote will be automatically found. But to do this, it is first necessary to comprehend, as far as possible, the
relationships between social conditions and structure formation, in particular the ideas which are incapable of a
direct socio-economic explanation: the
Lenin was struck by a peculiar irrational behavior of the masses before or during revolts. He writes about the
soldiers’ revolts in 1905 (
Über Religion,
p. 65):
The soldier had the greatest sympathy for the cause of the peasant; his eyes shone at the mere mention of land. Several times,
soldiers had taken over the military power, but never was there any decided utilization of this power. The soldiers became hesit
A few hours after having killed one of their hated superiors they let the others go free, began negotiations with the authoritie
s and let

themselves be shot, lay down again under the rod and let themselves be put in the yoke . . .
will explain such behavior on the basis of the eternal moral nature of man which makes rebellion
against the [20] laws of God, against the “authority of the state” and its representatives impossible.
vulgar Marxist
leaves such phenomena out of consideration altogether; he cannot understand or explain
them because they cannot be explained in purely socio-economic terms.
concept comes closer to the facts in that it explains such behavior from an infantile guilt feeling toward
the father. Yet, it does not explain the social origin and function of the behavior and therefore does not lead to a
practical solution either. Also, it overlooks the connection between such behavior and the suppression and
distortion of the sexual life of the masses.
The question as to how we can approach such
irrational phenomena requires a brief review
of the research method of sex-economy.
is a method of research which developed over many years through the application of functionalism
to human sex life and which has arrived at a series of new findings. It starts from the following premises:
found that social life is governed by the conditions of economic production and the resulting class
struggles. The owners of the social means of production rarely use brute force in their suppression of the ruled
classes; their main weapon is their ideological power over the oppressed which also lends powerful support to the
state. We have already mentioned the fact that Marx considered living man, with his psychological and physical
characteristics, the central factor in history and politics. The character structure of acting man, the so-called
“subjective factor in history” in the sense of Marx, remained unexplored: Marx was a sociologist and not a
psychologist, and there was, in his day, no scientific psychology. Thus the question remained open as to why
people, for thousands of years, have tolerated exploitation and moral degradation, in brief, slavery; Marx explored
only the economic process in society and the mechanism of economic exploitation.
About a half century later,
with a special method which [21] he called
discovered the
processes which govern psychic life. The most important of his discoveries, which had a revolutionary effect on a
great many generally accepted concepts and thus brought down the hatred of the world on him, were the
Conscious psychic life is only a small part of psychic life. It is governed by psychological processes which are
unconscious and therefore not under the control of the conscious. All psychic phenomena, no matter how
meaningless they may appear, like dreams, slips of the tongue, forgetting and misplacing things, the absurd
utterances of mental patients, they all have a function and a “meaning” and can be understood from the history of
the individual. In this way, psychology—which up to that time had led a miserable existence in the form of a kind
of physics of the brain (“brain mythology”) or as a teaching of a mysterious objective spirit—became part of
natural science.
The second great discovery was that even the small child develops a lively sexuality, that, in other words,
are not the same thing, and
are not synonymous. The analysis of the
psychological processes showed, furthermore, that sexuality, or, rather, its energy, the
which derives from
bodily sources, is the central motor of psychic life. Biological factors and social conditions converge in psychic
The third great discovery was the fact that infantile sexuality—which includes the most essential part of the
child-parent relationship, the “Oedipus complex”—is usually repressed because of fear of punishment for sexual
thoughts and actions (basically, “castration anxiety”). As a result, infantile sexuality becomes excluded from
activity and disappears from conscious memory. The repression of infantile sexuality removes it from conscious
control. This does not, however, deprive it of its strength; on the contrary, it intensifies it and thus enables it to
manifest itself in
For a more extensive presentation,
W. Reich, “Dialektischer Materialismus und Psychoanalyse,”
Unter dem Banner des Marxismus.

[22] various psychic disturbances. As this repression of infantile sexuality is the rule in “civilized man,” Freud
could rightly state that all humanity was his patient.
The fourth important discovery was that human morality, far from being of supernatural origin, results from the
suppressive measures of early infantile education, particularly those directed against sexuality. The original
conflict between infantile desires and parental prohibitions lives on as an
conflict between instinct and
morals. The moral forces in the adult, which are themselves unconscious, act against the recognition of the laws
of sexuality and of unconscious psychic life; they support sexual repression (“sex resistance”) and explain the
resistance of the world to the discovery of infantile sexuality.
We have mentioned only those discoveries which are most important for our subject. By their very existence,
they were a heavy blow to reactionary moral philosophy and especially to religious metaphysics which proclaims
the existence of eternal moral values, that an objective spirit governs the world, and which denies the existence of
infantile sexuality and restricts sexuality to procreation. These discoveries, however, did not exert an influence
commensurate with their paramount importance because the psychological sociology which developed from them
robbed them again of most of their revolutionary elements. This is not the place to demonstrate this fact.
Psychoanalytic sociology suffered from the following errors: it attempted to analyze society as if it were an
individual; it postulated an absolute antithesis between cultural process and sexual gratification; it considered the
destructive drives as biological facts which governed human fate in an inexorable manner; it denied the
sociological development of patriarchy from matriarchy and contended that the patriarchal family was a
biological fact. As a result of these errors, it ended up in a paralyzing skepticism; it was afraid of the
consequences which followed logically from its own discoveries. For a long time now, it has taken an inimical
attitude toward attempts at drawing these conclusions, and its representatives consistently fight against such
attempts. Nevertheless, we [23] shall strongly defend Freud’s great discoveries against any attack, no matter
where it originates.
The methodology of sex-economic sociology which had these discoveries as its starting point is not one of the
common attempts to supplement Marx with Freud, or Freud with Marx, or to replace one by the other.
Psychoanalysis should fulfil a scientific function which socio-economics cannot fulfil: the comprehension not of
the historical soil of the ideology, but of its structure and dynamics. By including the discoveries of
psychoanalysis, sociology reaches a higher level and becomes better able to comprehend reality because, finally,
it includes the knowledge of human structure. Only a narrow-minded politician would think of reproaching the
character-analytic psychology of structure
for not being able immediately to give easily followed practical
It follows that sex-economic sociology which is based on the
foundation of Marx and the
one of Freud, is in its essence mass-psychological and sexual-sociological at
one and the same
It begins, with its refutation of Freud’s cultural philosophy,
where the clinical-psychological exploration of
psychoanalysis ends.
Psychoanalysis reveals the mechanisms of sexual suppression and repression and their pathological effects in the
individual. Sex-economic sociology goes on from here and asks,
For what sociological reason does society
suppress sexuality and does the individual repress it?
There have been many answers to this question. The church
says, for the sake of the soul in the hereafter. Mystical moral philosophy says, because of the eternal ethical
nature of man. Freud’s cultural philosophy says, for the sake of “culture.” One has reason to doubt such an
explanation and to ask how on earth the masturbation of infants or the sexual intercourse of adolescents will
interfere with the building of gasoline stations or airplanes. It is not difficult to see that it is not cultural activity as
such which requires the suppression
With regard to Freud’s cultural philosophy, one might say that—in spite of all its idealism—it contains more truths about life
as it is than all sociologies and
a great many Marxist psychologies taken together.

[24] of infantile and adolescent sexuality but only the
present-day forms
of cultural activity. And one would
readily sacrifice these forms if that would eliminate the untold misery of children and adolescent youth. The
question is not one of culture but of the social order. If one studies the history of sexual suppression one finds that
it does not exist in the early stages of culture formation. Therefore, it cannot be the prerequisite of culture. Rather,
it appears at a relatively late stage of culture, at the time of the development of authoritarian patriarchy and of
class distinctions. At that stage, the sexual interests of all begin to serve the profit interests of a minority. This
process has assumed a solid organizational form in the institutions of patriarchal marriage and patriarchal family.
With the suppression of sexuality the emotions undergo a change: a sex-negating religion begins to develop
which gradually builds up its own sex-political organization, the church in all its forms, which has no other goal
than that of eradicating sexual pleasure. This has its sociological reason in the exploitation of human work which
sets in at this stage.
In order to understand this, we must study that social institution in which the economic and the sex-economic
situation of patriarchal society are interlaced. Without a study of this institution, a comprehension of the sexual
economy and of the ideology of patriarchy is impossible. Character-analytic investigation of people of any age,
nationality or social stratum, shows that
the interlacing of the socio-economic with the sexual structure, as well as
the structural reproduction of society, takes place in the first four or five years of life, and in the authoritarian
The church only continues this function later on. In this way the authoritarian state develops its enormous
interest in the authoritarian family:
the family is the factory of its structure and ideology.
We have found the institutions in which the economic and the sexual interests of the authoritarian system meet.
We have to ask ourselves
this comes about. This question is also answered by character-analysis, provided
one does not exclude such questions from character-analytic investigation. Suppression of the [25] natural
sexuality in the child, particularly of its
sexuality, makes the child apprehensive, shy, obedient, afraid of
authority, “good” and “adjusted” in the authoritarian sense; it paralyzes the rebellious forces because any rebellion
is laden with anxiety; it produces, by inhibiting sexual curiosity and sexual thinking in the child, a general
inhibition of thinking and of critical faculties. In brief, the goal of sexual suppression is that of producing an
individual who is adjusted to the authoritarian order and who will submit to it in spite of all misery and
degradation. At first, the child has to adjust to the structure of the authoritarian miniature state, the family; this
makes it capable of later subordination to the general authoritarian system.
The formation of the authoritarian
structure takes place through the anchoring of sexual inhibition and sexual anxiety.
To understand why sex-economy considers the authoritarian family the most important place of reproduction of
the authoritarian system, we only have to take the example of a conservative worker’s wife. Her economic
situation is the same as that of the revolutionary worker’s, but she votes fascist. The difference between the sexual
ideology of the average revolutionary and the average reactionary woman is decisive: the anti-sexual, moralistic
structure of the conservative woman makes it impossible for her to develop a consciousness of her social position,
it ties her to the church as much as it makes her afraid of “Sexualbolschewismus.” Theoretically, the situation is
the following: the mechanistically thinking vulgar Marxist assumes that the consciousness of the social position
would be most acute when economic misery is sharpened by the additional sexual misery. If that were so, the
masses of women and of adolescents would be far more rebellious than the men. The exact opposite is true,
however, which the economist is at a loss to understand. He will not understand why the reactionary woman does
not even want to listen to his economic program. The answer is the following: the suppression of the gratification
of primitive material needs has a result different from that of the suppression of the gratification of the sexual
needs. The former incites rebellion. The latter, [26] however—by repressing the sexual needs and by becoming
anchored as moralistic defense—paralyzes the rebellion against either kind of suppression. More than that, the
inhibition of rebellion itself is unconscious. The conscious mind of the average unpolitical individual does not
even show a trace of it.
The result of this process is fear of freedom, and a conservative, reactionary mentality. Sexual repression aids

political reaction not only through this process which makes the mass individual passive and unpolitical but also
by creating in his structure an interest in actively supporting the authoritarian order. The suppression of natural
sexual gratification leads to various kinds of substitute gratifications. Natural aggression, for example, becomes
brutal sadism which then is an essential mass-psychological factor in imperialistic wars. To take another example:
the mass-psychological effect of militarism is essentially libidinous. The sexual effect of a uniform and of
rhythmically perfect parades, of military exhibitionism in general, are obvious to the average servant girl, even
though they may not be obvious to learned political scientists. Political reaction, however, makes conscious use of
these sexual interests. Not only does it create peacock-like uniforms for the men, it uses attractive women in its
recruiting campaigns. One only has to remember the recruiting posters with texts like this, “If you want to see the
world, join the Royal Navy.” The far-away world is represented by exotic women. Why are such posters
effective? Because our youth, as a result of sexual suppression, is sex-starved.
Sexual moralism, which inhibits the will for freedom, as well as those forces which tend in the direction of
authoritarian interests, derive their energy from repressed sexuality. Now we understand a basic element in the
“retroaction of ideology on the economic base.”
Sexual inhibition alters the structure of the economically
suppressed individual in such a manner that he thinks, feels and acts against his own material interests.
This is the mass-psychological explanation and confirmation of Lenin’s observations in the soldiers’ rebellion of
1905. To the unconscious of these soldiers, the officers represented their fathers [27] who denied their sexuality
and whom one was not allowed to kill even though they destroyed one’s joy in life. Their hesitation and
repentance after having seized power were the expression of their hatred turned into its opposite, into neurotic
sympathy; thus, the hatred could not be translated into action.
The practical problem of mass psychology, then, is that of activating the passive majority of the population
which always carries political reaction to victory; and the elimination of the inhibitions which counteract the will
to freedom as it is generated by the socio-economic position. If the psychic energies of the average mass of
people watching a football game or a musical comedy could be diverted into the rational channels of a freedom
movement, they would be invincible. This is the standpoint which guides the following sex-economic investigation.
end Part One.

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